Snow tracks lead Juneau police to school vandalism suspects

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2008

The story of an alleged burglary and vandalism reported at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School on Wednesday morning sounds like an episode of the television show "America's Dumbest Criminals" - but it might not make it to the hit crime drama "Crime Scene Investigation."

Juneau Police Department officers went to the Lemon Creek middle school shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday to find an outside door and window broken.

The officers were able to track two possible suspects by using some old-fashioned police work - and a little help from Mother Nature.

"They did follow a trail in the snow right to a residence in that area and that is how (police) got to the residence," Sgt. David Wrightson said. "It's one of the only good things about winter and snow."

Police talked with the potential suspects after following the tracks, although no arrests were made as of Wednesday night.

"It was that simple - to that point - in at least finding the residence," he said.

Officers collected evidence and the investigation is ongoing, Wrightson said. Initial damage estimates exceed $7,000.

The names and ages of the possible suspects have not been released because the case is still under investigation, he said. Wrightson did say the suspects are not minors.

Vandals repeatedly threw a large rock, damaging a stained glass window inside the school, he said.

Principal Barb Mecum said the exact cost of the damage is yet to be determined, but it appeared nothing was stolen from the school.

"It was pure vandalism," she said. "And the good news is that the (suspects) have been caught."

Mecum said the incident did not disrupt classes on Wednesday and that the school was able to fix the broken door early in the morning.

"Between police and maintenance, they took great care of us," she said.

The suspects could potentially face felony burglary and criminal mischief charges due to the extent of damage to the property and the alleged unlawful entry into the building, Wrightson said. If convicted, the suspects could face up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Wrightson said vandalism to school properties in Juneau has been relatively rare recently.

"We've had our fair share, but it has been a long time," he said. "We don't have constant vandalizing of our schools, luckily."

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