Straw ties inmate to 2003 Mesa burglary - East Valley Tribune: News

Straw ties inmate to 2003 Mesa burglary

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Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 6:01 pm | Updated: 2:06 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

A man already incarcerated in a Maricopa County jail could be facing more time because of a straw that police say he left behind at the scene of a burglary nearly six years ago.

Jason Clafton, 29, was arrested on suspicion of burglary by Mesa police about 10 a.m. Friday after authorities brought him into the police station for questioning in connection with a May 21, 2003, burglary committed in the 1300 block of West Emerald Avenue. Police say they were able to connect him to the crime site through a match in a DNA database.

In late January, a Mesa police forensic specialist completed a scientific examination report that verified Clafton's DNA was a match to a straw on a Big Gulp cup purchased from a 7-Eleven sometime before the crime, according to a police report.

Items including a DVD player, Bose stereo speakers, an Oregon high school class ring, a computer and hard drive and a drill set were stolen after someone broke into the apartment by shattering the glass on a locked sliding door, according to the report.

Clafton's DNA was not in any databases at the time of the burglary. But since then, Clafton has been arrested on auto theft, issuing a bad check, criminal trespass and theft and burglary charges, according to the report. In 2000, he also had been sentenced to two years in an Arizona Department of Corrections facility on a narcotics violation, according to prison records.

After the scientific examination linked Clafton to the burglary, police contacted the victim, who said he knew the suspect at the time of the crime but had not been in contact with him since.

The victim told police he had always suspected Clafton. He said when he returned home items had been moved around inside the residence, and he noticed a Big Gulp cup that was not there when he left that morning.

When police questioned Clafton about the burglary Friday, he admitted to being inside the apartment and he said he may have left his cup there. But he denied committing the break-in, the reported stated.

However, the DNA match on the straw remains a big break in the case, said Detective Michael Melendez, a spokesman for the Mesa Police Department. "It's pretty exciting," Melendez said. "That's what you're waiting for. Other crimes usually have witnesses, but burglaries are usually done during the day when people aren't at home. Unless you have evidence, an unsolved crime can be out there for a long time. Luckily, people who commit crimes continue to commit them and evidence will eventually link them to other crimes."

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