Edgartown Police combined technology and old-fashioned police work to track down a man they said is responsible for a late-night burglary spree that began Tuesday night and extended into Wednesday morning in the vicinity of 21st Street and Anthier’s Way.
Matthew D. Engstrume, 23, of Rhode Island, currently living at 23 Anthier’s Way in Edgartown, was arraigned Friday in Edgartown District Court on one count of breaking and entering during the nighttime to commit a felony, and one count of larceny from a dwelling. Bail was set at $1,000.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for December 6. Police are expected to seek additional charges that include eight counts of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and charges related to using a cell phone to send obscene material.
In a telephone conversation Friday, Detective Sergeant Chris Dolby said Leah Selby was home from college for the holiday and asleep when her cell phone rang late at night. The call was from her father, Kevin Selby, which surprised her, Detective Dolby said, since Mr. Selby was also in the house.
She went downstairs to her parents’ room and woke her father. As they investigated the curious cell phone call they discovered that someone had entered the house and stolen her mother’s purse containing her credit cards and keys, a laptop computer with years of family photos, and Mr. Selby’s cell phone.
The family called police, who arrived about 1:30 am. As police investigated, the daughter’s phone rang. “Her phone started receiving incoming text messages from the father’s stolen phone,” Detective Dolby said, “to include pornographic pictures. So she lent her phone to us to keep the conversation going and further the search.”
The officers used the phone network to narrow down the location of the stolen phone and confirm that it was originating in the Ocean Heights area, but the provider was unable to pinpoint the signal.
On Wednesday morning, as people awakened and began to go outside, police began receiving reports of car break-ins that had occurred over night. Based on the information from the phone company and reports of car break-ins, police began knocking on doors in the neighborhood.
Background surroundings in the room were visible in one of the pornographic photos of his private parts the thief sent to the victim.
“We could see the pine floors, the color of the interior, the hardware on the interior door, and a piece of cloth put down at the base of the door to prevent a draft, so we kind of knew what the interior would look like where the guy was located,” Detective Dolby said.
During their canvassing of the neighborhood, police went to a house Stop & Shop rents and is used to house employees. “I knocked on the door,” Detective Dolby said. “A young male came to the door and as I was speaking to him at the threshold I could see that the interior was definitely looking like a match to what we saw in the picture.”
Detective Dolby told the young man what had occurred in the neighborhood and asked him if anything was missing from the house. The young man told the police that he had worked that night and had not noticed anything.
The police explained that they had a description of the interior where the cell phone call had originated and asked if they could step inside. “He walked us right in the house and I asked if I could see an interior door,” Mr. Dolby said. “He led us to an interior door and it was a dead ringer to what we were looking at in the picture. One thing led to another and he admitted he had been in the house.”
Police immediately located several pieces of stolen property in Mr. Engstrume’s room. They later returned with a search warrant and recovered more stolen property. They also discovered a quantity of marijuana police said was part of a distribution scheme and seized $1,300 and various implements.
Detective Dolby said there was no connection between Mr. Engstrume and the young woman, Mr. Selby, or any of the victims. “He went through the victim’s phone and he sent pornographic pictures and messages to every female in Kevin’s phone,” Detective Dolby said.
In a telephone conversation Friday, Mr. Selby told The Times that on Wednesday, he began receiving emails from some of the recipients of the images sent with his phone asking what was going on. Many assumed his phone must have been stolen. A few told him he better stop what he was doing. Some called police, who quickly explained the situation. It was a busy day of explaining.
Mr. Selby said he was grateful to the police. “They did a great job,” he said. “I was impressed with how quickly they moved on it. I’m just glad it came to a good ending.”
Asked about Mr. Egstrume’s state of mind, Detective Doby said, “He appeared to be under the influence of something, we’re not quite sure.”
“It was good work by the department,” Chief Tony Bettencourt said of his officers.
Nis Kildegaard, a resident of 21st Street, said the thief rummaged through the glove compartments of his car and his wife’s car but found nothing to his liking and went on to break into other vehicles and houses along the street.
Mr. Kildegaard, an MVTimes columnist, told the newspaper in a telephone call Wednesday shortly after he learned police had caught the thief, that it is a testament to the Edgartown Police Department.
“I’ve thought for many years that they are great at community policing and great at real policing,” Mr. Kildegaard said. “We are well served by this department. This arrest provided just another reason to be impressed by the quality of their work.”