KINGSTON — While borough residents slept, Shaun A. Baker allegedly made off like a bandit.
On a table in the basement of the Kingston Borough Building on Wednesday morning, police set out for reporters a vast and eclectic collection of items they say the Winola Avenue man stole in a string of home and vehicle break-ins that might extend at least as far back as May.
Amid dozens of electronic items — 36 GPS devices, 16 cellphones and three laptops, to name just several — there were other, more bizarre finds, ranging from a Beretta .9 mm handgun to sports memorabilia, Jewish religious items and cough medicine.
Baker, 25, was arrested Tuesday night and charged Wednesday in connection with five home break-ins and one attempted home break-in, and he is a suspect in thefts from more than 100 vehicles.
While a family member told police Baker has a drug problem, investigators don’t yet know why he accumulated the large stash over a long period of time without selling or trading the items. There were price tags on some of the items, however, leading them to believe Baker may have been planning to sell them on the eBay auction website.
“I think he’s a klepto,” Kingston police Detective Stephen Gibson said when asked why Baker may have hoarded the cache of goods, including valuable electronics.
Baker allegedly targeted homes and vehicles around Rutter Avenue, Chestnut Avenue, West Walnut Avenue, John Street and Mercer Avenue in the borough.
On display Wednesday was a red mountain bike that police say Baker used as a getaway vehicle, together with a large black duffle bag they believe he used to haul away the items.
Sgt. Michael Krzywicki said the bike helped police “put two and two together,” linking Baker with two alleged incidents.
First, a woman reported scaring off a man who broke into her home, then fled on a red bike. Then, on Sept. 25, according to court documents, Baker’s stepfather, Charles Hodgson, said Baker tried to break into the side door of his Mercer Avenue home, then fled on a bicycle when Hodgson approached.
Police took Baker into custody Tuesday night on a criminal trespassing warrant. He initially told police that he had gone to the Mercer Avenue home to see his brother, and left when Hodgson arrived because they don’t get along.
He also said a class ring he had pawned last month was given to him by his girlfriend, Danielle Zielinski, with whom he lives.
Officers contacted Zielinski, who told police Baker had broken into numerous cars in the Kingston area, and she also knew about one house he had burglarized.
According to an affidavit, Zielinski told police that most of the items were still in the attic apartment they rent from her parents, and gave police written permission to search the premises. She accompanied police back to the apartment and turned over the items.
At 3:21 a.m. Wednesday, police interviewed Baker again and advised him of his rights, at which time he agreed to speak without an attorney present.
Confronted with information about the items police retrieved from his apartment, Baker admitted that he began breaking into cars about a year ago, according to an affidavit, and had targeted about 100 vehicles.
Krzywicki said Baker admitted his work was made easier by the sheer number of cars he found to be unlocked, many with valuables in plain sight. While phones and GPS devices were apparently easy prey, Baker also collected whatever loose change he could find, ultimately accumulating hundreds of dollars from that source alone, police believe.
Baker allegedly admitted his thefts had escalated to house burglaries in the past few weeks, and he broke in using whatever tools he could find handy, including a fire extinguisher and an ax in two cases, or pushing open windows.
He was arraigned Wednesday morning before District Judge Paul Roberts and jailed in lieu of $62,500 bail. A preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 15.