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Burglary probe focuses on area communities

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published 08/04/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 08/04/2012 08:43 PM
State police find stolen guns in Lyme barn used by former Marine

Lyme - State police seized guns stolen during residential burglaries in several area towns when they searched a barn last month on the Brush Hill Road property of former First Selectman William T. Koch Jr.

A search warrant affidavit unsealed this week in New London Superior Court reveals that the investigation that led state police to the rural town spans the region and centers on 25-year-old Justin P. Weissinger, a convicted burglar with local ties.

State Police Sgt. John Mesham from Troop F is heading up the burglary case with assistance from Salem Resident State Trooper Kevin Seery and others.

"This is a very active investigation involving troopers from several towns," Mesham said Friday. "State police have recovered evidence from multiple crimes, and we ask that anyone with information come forward."

Though the newly unsealed court document is limited to the barn on the Koch property, the investigation has led the troopers to other locations where they have recovered stolen jewelry, silver and other items.

Lyme resident Victoria "Deetsie" Bradford, whose house was burglarized in February, said she and some of the other victims were called to Troop F recently to identify stolen items that had been recovered. The town has experienced an unusual number of residential burglaries in the past year, according to First Selectman Ralph Eno.

"People in Lyme never even lock their doors, and to have something like this happen was shocking and freaked out the entire community," Bradford said.

Weissinger is the son of Koch's girlfriend, Nicole Weissinger, and does not live at 151 Brush Hill Road, but used a red barn on the property to work on his car and do other projects. He also used the address for his driver's license and other official documents.

Koch, a defense attorney whose caseload contains clients accused of murder and other major crimes, was cooperative during the police search of his property, according to the court documents.

Reached by phone Friday, he declined to comment on the investigation.

Weissinger, a 2005 graduate of Lyme-Old Lyme High School, is the key witness in a high-profile home invasion/double murder case in California and has admitted to taking part in a string of nighttime burglaries and robberies with fellow Marines while stationed at Camp Pendleton as a helicopter mechanic.

He was discharged from the Marines for illegal drug use.

Investigation gains traction

Though state police had Weissinger on their radar as early as June, when they questioned him in connection with nighttime burglaries in Lyme and Old Lyme, the search warrant affidavit indicates their investigation gained traction after he was arrested on July 10, allegedly with a stolen .380 caliber pistol, following a high-speed police chase.

Weissinger is being held in prison in lieu of $50,000 on charges that he led police from Route 161 in Montville to Cardinal Drive, where he fled into the woods. Montville police said when they arrested him, he was in possession of marijuana, methadone pills, heroin and the gun, which had been stolen during a nighttime burglary on Valley Drive in Salem.

Weissinger told them he had found the gun in the woods in Salem, police said.

Two days after the chase, Mesham and others executed a search-and-seizure warrant at the barn on the Koch property. Using a key they had seized from Weissinger after the car chase, they opened a gun locker in the barn and found a 12 gauge shotgun and a .22 rifle stolen from a burglary on Bashan Road in East Haddam and two air rifles stolen from a burglary on Hagen Road in Salem.

The troopers also seized a blue Volkswagen Jetta that was parked near the barn. The car, registered to Weissinger, had a .177 caliber rifle lying across the back seat, in plain view, according to the affidavit.

Eno, the Lyme first selectman, said he is encouraged with the progress of the investigation and hopeful that the victims of the burglaries will get closure. Lyme is covered by Troop F but does not currently have a resident trooper.

"I've talked to Sgt. Mesham, and since the investigation is ongoing, he has requested some town support given the level of focus in this town and the number of people involved in these crimes," Eno said. "We're going to use some of our overtime funds to support this investigation."

Testimony in double murder case

Weissinger returned from California in 2009 after testifying for the prosecution in a highly publicized double murder case about information he had allegedly received from a fellow Marine at Camp Pendleton with whom he had carried out a string of burglaries.

The murder cases are still pending, and it is unclear whether Weissinger will be called on again to testify in California.

Weissinger testified that he had been locked up on a burglary charge when, he said, four fellow Marines killed Marine Sgt. Jan Pietrzak and his wife, Quiana Jenkins Pietzrak. He was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Weissinger testified that the four Marines went to the Pietzrak home in Winchester, Calif. He said one of the men told him they confronted the sergeant at gunpoint, tied up Pietzrak and his wife, ransacked the home and sexually assaulted the wife. Weissinger said the men shot both husband and wife three times in the head as they kneeled over a couch. The men said they then set the house on fire.

Investigators said the Marines also scrawled a racial slur on the wall of an upstairs bedroom. The Pietzraks were a mixed-race couple.

Weissinger was arrested within months of his return. In December 2009, Stonington police charged him with possession of marijuana, having a weapon in a motor vehicle, possession of marijuana with intent to sell and criminal possession of body armor.

Though he was on probation for the California crimes, court records indicate that the Connecticut charges were not prosecuted or have been dismissed. Typically, that is an indication that he successfully completed a diversionary program, such as a substance abuse education program.

Weissinger's Facebook page contains several pictures of him in his military camouflage and Marine dress uniform. In one photo, the blue-eyed blond is holding an assault rifle and smiling.

k.florin@theday.com

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