‘Sheetrock Stevens’ suspected in church burglaries | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Sheetrock Stevens’ suspected in church burglaries

Gregory Crofton

South Lake Tahoe’s suspected serial burglar is wanted for church burglaries in the Bay area, said a San Francisco police inspector.

David “Sheetrock” Stevens, a 41-year-old transient, is accused of stealing from nine churches in San Francisco and Marin County earlier this year, according a report in the San Francisco Chronicle. He may have hit St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights 10 times since 1998, often stealing coin collection jars.

Stevens is also a prime suspect in a string of at least 21 burglaries at South Shore that began in late April, two of which occurred at churches. So far South Lake Tahoe evidence technicians have linked Stevens to break-ins at four businesses in town: Ernie’s Coffee Shop, The Farm, Rock Puppy and Studio 6 Hair Design.

Stevens allegedly dug and kicked his way through Sheetrock walls to burglarize businesses. The burglar also pried open rear doors and smashed windows to gain entry. Once inside, he often took time to drink beers and smoke.

South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Chuck Owens anticipates that fingerprints collected will link Stevens to more burglaries.

Owens said he is not worried about Stevens’ trying to dig his way out of El Dorado County Jail.

“I just saw him about an hour ago, he appeared to be very subdued,” Owens said. “He also appears to be a man who knows the system. He is not talking to law enforcement at this time.”

The serial burglar seems to have switched his preference from churches to hair salons when he reached Tahoe. Among the 21 reported crimes, nearly 10 were at salons with only two known to be at churches.

May 4 there was a burglary at the First Baptist Church of South Lake Tahoe on Wildwood Avenue. Last weekend the Christian Science Church and Reading Room at the 2081 U.S. Highway 50 reported a break-in but noticed nothing missing.

A five-gallon water bottle filled with between $100 to $500 is missing from the First Baptist Church. The thief broke broke a double-paned second-story window to get at the money collected by teen-agers as a youth fund.

“There is no tree close enough to climb,” said Marcia Kane, a volunteer at the church. “We think the person had to have gone over the roof. He had to have done it fast because we have an alarm system.”

Police arrested Stevens early Monday as he ran from Ernie’s Coffee Shop. He tripped a silent alarm when he broke in a rear door.

“We put it in 12 or 13 years ago because we had some break-ins,” said Paul Bruso, owner of the coffee shop. “I always keep the alarm silent ever since because I feel there’s a better chance of police catching someone.”

He was right. Police spotted Stevens inside the coffee shop at 12:22 a.m.

Tuesday small businesses throughout South Lake Tahoe must have breathed a sigh of relief as news of Stevens’ arrest came out.

Alpina Cafe on Emerald Bay Road, formerly Alpen Sierra Coffee Company, installed a $1,200 alarm because someone had broken into a neighboring massage therapy business.

Owner Joe Luciani came to work extra early one morning and believes he saw a burglar.

“I saw this guy walking around my building at 4 a.m.,” he said. “He walked right by while I was in the car.”

Luciani said he hopes the guy the police caught is the right one because the burglaries are costing businesses a lot.

“He’d been doing a lot of damage,” he said, “more than what he’s been stealing.”

Stevens is wanted for a felony parole warrant and for four felony burglary warrants out of San Francisco, Marin County and San Diego.

He is expected to be arraigned today at 3 p.m. in El Dorado County Superior Court.

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