Empty Beer Bottle, Toothbrush May Help Catch Crooks

Police Trying To Tie Two Burglaries To DNA Left At Crime Scenes

Memo to burglars: When burglarizing a home, don't help yourself to a Corona beer from the fridge and leave the empty bottle on the fish tank.

It's rude and leaves your DNA for police.

Also, don't leave your coat with your toothbrush in the pocket on the roof of a Mexican restaurant while breaking in through a vent to steal more Corona beer, tequila and money.

Likewise, don't cut yourself smashing a window to enter yet another Mexican restaurant. It leaves a bloody trail that will make police crime scene technicians smile.

Denver authorities recently obtained court-ordered DNA samples from two burglary suspects for comparison to the saliva left on the beer bottle and the toothbrush and the blood trail left at three separate burglaries.

The two suspects have been arrested, but the DNA results are not known yet.

It's all part of a DNA Burglary Project that's slashed break-ins 30 percent in Denver, according to District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

Police and prosecutors' DNA prowess includes catching a hungry burglar who took some bites from a tuna sandwich he grabbed from a victim's fridge. Other break-in artists have been tripped up by the DNA on cigarette butts they discarded.

Morrissey has even urged burglary victims to refrain from cleaning the house to preserve crucial evidence until after police have examined the scene.

At least 143 habitual burglars have been caught since the since the project was launched three years ago with a federal grant.

Morrissey estimates the DNA project has saved Denver taxpayers $29 million.

The savings is a combination of preventing victim losses and reducing law enforcement costs because DNA evidence boosts the efficiency of police investigations and prosecution rates, said DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough.

"A serial, prolific burglar can commit on average 240 burglars a year," Kimbrough said. "So if you just take a handful of those folks off the street you'll see an impact. Take 95 burglars off the street over the course of two years, you'll see the results are dramatic and the savings are dramatic."

The use of DNA evidence in burglary cases results in average 14-year prison term, compared to an average 1.4-year jail sentence for burglary cases relying on traditional evidence, according to the DA's office.

In the latest cases, Miguel Rodrigo Espinoza, 18, was arrested Nov. 18 as a suspect in a couple Denver burglaries.

A judge ordered him to give a DNA sample for comparison with an Oct. 30 home break-in where a thirsty burglar downed the Corona beer and left the empty bottle atop the fish tank in the living room, according a search warrant affidavit seeking the court order for Espinoza's DNA sample. The burglar also stole the woman resident's laptop, jewelry, Bronco jersey and coin collection.

Espinoza had been formally charged with two counts of burglary for two separate break-ins, Kimbrough said.

Gilberto Alejandro Hidalgo, 23, is a suspect in burglaries at two Denver Mexican restaurants last month.

During a Nov. 26 burglary of Playa Azul Restaurant, 1423 S. Federal Blvd., a crook left a coat with his toothbrush in the pocket on the rooftop while squeezing through a vent to steal Corona beer, tequila and cash.

A witness told police he saw a man carrying liquor bottles from the restaurant and heading to a nearby apartment, according to court records. The women living at the apartment said a man named "Gilberto" had brought Corona beer and tequila over on the early morning of Nov. 26.

Investigators tracked down the suspect, who was identified as Hidalgo, court records stated.

In the early morning of Nov. 14, a burglar left a bloody trail after cutting himself while breaking through a window at Torres Restaurant, 1595 S. Federal Blvd. A cash register was stolen.

When arrested, Hidalgo had cuts on his right hand and the top of his right ear, police said in court records.

Detectives learned that Hidalgo had a history of strong-arm robberies in El Paso, Texas, where he is currently wanted for a robbery involving a knife, court records stated.

In Denver, Hidalgo has been charged with two counts of burglary for two separate break-ins and criminal mischief, Kimbrough said.