Chilmark police, with a helping hand from a passerby wielding a socket wrench, ended a Pennsylvania man’s four-day Island burglary spree Sunday and recovered more than $100,000 in stolen jewelry and electronics.
Chilmark Police arrested Damien DeRose, 27, of Doylestown township, Pennsylvania, at approximately 4 pm Sunday on multiple burglary and drug charges in connection with house breaks in three Island towns. He is currently being held at the Dukes County jail on $90,000 bail.
Evidence police recovered from Mr. DeRose’s vehicle matched items stolen in recent house breaks in West Tisbury and Edgartown, according to a police press release. Working together, Edgartown, West Tisbury, and Chilmark police officers were able to connect Mr. DeRose to recent burglaries in each of their towns.
Mr. DeRose, a musician, is also a suspect in several burglaries in and around the affluent community of Doylestown, Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi said. A Doylestown detective is expected to arrive in Chilmark soon, Mr. Cioffi said.
The arrest came against the backdrop of heightened security during the vacation visit by President Obama and his family that ended late Sunday.
Mr. DeRose confessed to police, Chief Cioffi said. Police think that all items Mr. DeRose stole on Martha’s Vineyard were still in his possession at the time of his arrest.
Mr. DeRose was visiting his parents, seasonal Vineyard Haven residents. During a search of their house, police also found a quantity of heroin and more stolen items, according to a press release.
“The parents were absolutely shocked and saddened to think he would do this on the Island,” Chief Cioffi said.
Mr. DeRose targeted houses in wealthy areas of the Island during the daytime. He used pillowcases he found in the houses to haul away his loot.
On Saturday, he entered a house in the Kitts Field neighborhood of Edgartown and took a “significant” amount of jewelry, necklaces, bracelets, and rings, Edgartown Detective Sergeant Chris Dolby told The Times. Later that day, he entered a house in the Oyster Watcha area where he stole jewelry valued at $5,000, prescription pills, $600, some English pounds, and and a wallet and passport.
“He would load up a pillowcase with whatever he was taking,” Sergeant Dolby said. “This kid was for the most part going into unlocked houses.”
Mr. Dolby said he understands that many Vineyard homeowners are not in the habit of locking their doors, but he said they would be well advised to lock up valuables. He said the arrest Sunday was very timely. “Another day or so and we probably would have missed him,” he said.
Mr. DeRose is accused of entering three houses in West Tisbury, off South Road, Old County Road, and Indian Hill Road. In all, he took cash, a laptop computer and some expensive jewelry, and family heirlooms, West Tisbury Police Chief Dan Rossi told The Times. “It was pretty brazen to be going into homes in the middle of the day,” Chief Rossi said.
Chief Rossi added that the arrest and later determination that Mr. DeRose was responsible for thefts in three different towns exemplified good police work and cooperation among all the Island departments. He said it was fortunate that the owners of the house Mr. DeRose entered on Sunday were able to give a good description.
On Sunday afternoon, a Chilmark family arrived home in the Prospect Hill subdivision to find a strange car, a black Suburu Outback, in their driveway. The front door was open. When they called into the house, Mr. DeRose answered back from upstairs. He told the homeowners he was lost and had entered looking for someone who could give directions. The homeowners said they were going to call the police. Mr. DeRose left.
“When they went upstairs they found that he had been going through their jewelry boxes and putting stuff in pillowcases,” Chief Cioffi said.
Police in two vehicles responded to the house. Chilmark Chief Brian Cioffi was on duty at the president’s vacation house off South Road, where he had been during much of the week. On his way to Prospect Hill along North Road he spotted a car that matched the description of the one seen leaving the house.
He chased down the Suburu and pulled the car over on North Road near the old Blueberry Hill Inn. There was a brief struggle, Mr. Cioffi said, when he went to arrest Mr. DeRose.
“I was heading up to the crossroads and two cruisers went flying by me, and then the chief went flying by me,” Frank Lorusso told The Times. “As I’m going up North Road, I see the chief struggling somewhat with a young guy. He was giving him a hard time, so I pulled over and offered my assistance.”
Mr. LoRusso, a member of the zoning board of appeals, grabbed a socket wrench. “I had a bunch of tools next to my seat,” Mr. LoRusso said. “But by the time I got out of my car, he had it all under control.”
Asked about his willingness to help, Mr. Lorusso said, “I think anybody would. It turns out, it was quite a bust, quite a thing. This guy needed to be caught — and the chief did a great job, as always.”
Mr. LoRusso was not the only person to assist, Mr. Cioffi said. John Keene heard the chief say that he was stepping away from his cruiser after he stopped the Suburu, and he went to assist. He arrived at the same time as the other police cruisers.
Chief Cioffi said the assistance from police in multiple departments, including Lt. Matt Mincone of West Tisbury, Sgt. Chris Dolby, Sgt. Chris Habekost, and Officer Jeff Day of Tisbury, and the willingness of ordinary citizens to step in speaks to the character of the town and Island.