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Footprints lead straight to Northfield burglary suspect

Police say alleged thief got lost during getaway through woods

NORTHFIELD — Police have arrested a local man they say became lost after burglarizing a Maple Street home.

At 10:35 Tuesday night, Northfield police received a report of a suspicious man talking on a cell phone behind an Old Wendell Road home.

“Sgt. Scott Minckler responded, and, after a short walk along the woodline, he came across a set of footprints in the snow,” said acting Chief Robert Leighton.

“He followed the footprints, and came across a person sitting by a tree, who had a large amount of antiques in a backpack and pillow case,” he continued. “They were things like figurines, candlestick holders, some crystal vases, and antique pots and glassware. There were no electronics, or anything like that.”

Luis Ishmael Diaz-Torres, 43, of 15 Lyman St., was arrested on charges of breaking and entering in the night for a felony, larceny over $250, and malicious and wanton destruction of property over $250.

After Minckler located the suspect, he was joined by officers from Erving and Bernardston.

“When he was questioned about the items, he said he found them in the woods,” said Leighton. He said the suspect was also found with several flashlights and a single latex glove among the stolen goods.

While Minckler stayed with the suspect, the assisting officers followed the footprints through the woods and back to a summer home on Maple Street. There, wrote Minckler in his report, they found the house ransacked, with several items broken, and many more loaded into bags, ready to go.

“He had spent a lengthy amount of time in the house, going through the property that was there, and preparing for some of the items to be taken later,” said Leighton. “It looked like he had gone through the entire place.”

An officer who spoke with Diaz-Torres’ girlfriend reported that she told police he had left for a walk at about 6 p.m., with a backpack, and hadn’t returned since.

Though the suspect’s path was clearly laid out in the snow, Erving officer Robert Holst and his bloodhound Badge were called in to assist. After following the track from the house to the area he was found, Badge jumped on Diaz-Torres, his way of identifying the suspect, wrote Minckler.

Minckler also reported that the suspect’s shoes matched the impressions left in the snow. Pictures were taken of the tracks, and the shoes were kept as evidence.

Leighton said it appeared that the suspect got lost after the burglary, which took place less than a mile from Diaz-Torres’ home. When an Old Wendell Road resident heard him talking on his cell phone in the woods, trying to figure out where he was, she called police.

Leighton is pleased with his officer’s response, as well as the call that led to the arrest.

“It’s good when things work out, an officer is in the right place at the right time, and a resident makes the call that they should’ve,” said Leighton. “It’s nice to see everything come together like this.”

Leighton said he is working with other departments to determine whether the suspect has been involved in other area break-ins.

The chief said the property owners have been advised of the burglary, and will come check out their property at their earliest convenience.

Diaz-Torres was arraigned Wednesday morning in Greenfield District Court, where he plead innocent. He is scheduled to return to court on March 19.

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