Stonington police use fingerprints, footwork to solve borough bed and breakfast burglary

Stonington police detectives used a combination of technologies and time-tested investigative techniques to track down the people they say sneaked into the Orchard Street Inn Bed & Breakfast on Halloween night in 2017 and carried away a safe weighing more than 200 pounds.

Their efforts led them to Jerome Taylor, 27, of New London and Ashley Harnois, 24, of Woonsocket, R.I., who also are accused of prostitution and home invasion crimes in Norwich and Groton during the same time period. Stonington police served an arrest warrant this past week on Taylor, who is being held at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution, when he appeared in New London Superior Court. He is charged with first-degree burglary and third-degree larceny.

Harnois, who is incarcerated at the Janet S. York Correctional Institution, was charged with the same crimes on Jan. 3.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, bed and breakfast owner Anton "Richard" Sattler called police on Nov. 1 to tell them a safe containing about $5,000 in cash and coins, an antique brass flare gun and important paperwork had been stolen during the night. The safe was located behind a door, under a staircase in the basement, which the owner said he uses as an office and which is not accessible from the outside of the building. He said he retired to his second-floor bedroom at 9:30 p.m. and left the door open so that guests could come and go.

Sgt. William Morrison and Detective Matthew Capalbo interviewed Sattler and dusted for fingerprints as they processed the crime scene, according to the affidavit. Asked if he suspected anyone of the burglary, Sattler identified Harnois and Taylor, whom he knew only as "Rome." He said the couple stayed at the bed and breakfast for three nights in August 2017 before being asked to leave because they hadn't paid. He said they seemed suspicious because "they would be out all night and sleep all day," according to the affidavit.

The detectives investigated the suspects' backgrounds using Facebook, newspaper stories and criminal records. They obtained finger and palm prints for Taylor, a convicted felon, from the Connecticut State Police. They asked the state forensic lab to compare Taylor's prints to fingerprints that Morrison had lifted from a metal cabinet that blocked the door to the stolen safe and was moved during the burglary. The laboratory notified them a fingerprint lifted from the left side of the cabinet matched the print on file from Taylor's left ring finger.

The detectives went to the Corrigan prison and interviewed Taylor, whom they said remembered staying at the bed and breakfast with Harnois. He described the layout of the home but denied going into the basement. He said he and Harnois had been driving a silver Toyota Camry during that time, according to the affidavit.

The detectives reviewed surveillance video from a town-owned camera attached to the Stonington Borough Fire Department that records traffic entering and exiting the borough via the Alpha Avenue viaduct bridge. They saw a silver Camry entering the borough at 2:09 a.m. on the day of the burglary and leaving at 2:39 a.m.

Confronted with the fingerprint evidence, Taylor said he and a cousin had entered the home through the unlocked door, carried the safe from the basement, placed it in the trunk of the car and drove away. Taylor said it took a few days to pry open and that he, the cousin and Harnois divided the cash.

Harnois, informed during a prison interview that Taylor had confessed to the burglary, also made admissions after talking about wanting to get away from drugs and crime, according to the affidavit. She said that she and Taylor, while staying at the bed and breakfast, had looked around for anything of value. She said they found the safe and decided to return and steal it when they had a car, according to the affidavit. She said they decided on Halloween night because there would be a lot of other people out that night.

Harnois told the police that she and Taylor had split the cash. She said they put the paperwork from the safe into a black garbage bag and brought it to a friend's house in Woonsocket, R.I. The detectives traveled to Woonsocket, where they found the bag containing the paperwork behind a mattress that was leaning against a wall in the hallway of an apartment.

The case remains under investigation, Morrison said Friday by telephone. Harnois and Taylor remain in prison and have upcoming court dates in February.

k.florin@theday.com

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