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Island burglaries lead to Seattle suspect

A Vashon father and an iPhone app recently helped King County deputies apprehend a man they believe is responsible for several burglaries in King County, including two on Vashon and one that left several students without their backpacks and gym bags.

Authorities arrested West Seattle resident Sean Jeardoe, 20, after burglaries at an island residence and the Jensen Point boathouse on Sept. 9. Jeardoe was booked into jail Sept. 11 and was charged in King County Superior Court on Monday with 10 felonies, including possession of a stolen vehicle, residential burglary and  possession of a stolen firearm, according to charging papers. The crimes dated from Jan. 26 to July 7, 2013. Monday’s charges did not include the incidents on Vashon, which are still under investigation, according to Dan Donahoe, spokesman for the King County prosecutor.

“This is a big case. We think this guy is responsible for more than two dozen burglaries,” said Sgt. Cindi West, a spokeswoman for the King County Sheriff’s Office.

A woman was also arrested in the aftermath of Vashon’s crimes. She has not been charged yet but is being held on an outstanding warrant from her July 7 arrest with Jeardoe.

Following the thefts on Vashon, Jeardoe attempted to elude arrest and had both his pregnant girlfriend and a stolen loaded gun in the car, according to charging papers. Once apprehended, he confessed to several residential burglaries in recent months, prosecutors say.

In an interview last week, Vashon resident Gene Kuhns recounted the story of the burglary at his family’s north-end home. While family members were away, a thief removed a screen on an open window, entered the home and stole a safe containing valuables, including jewelry and a gun. One of the items in the safe, he said, was his grandmother’s diamond wedding ring, which he had given to his wife and has much sentimental value. Beyond the loss of the material items, he said the theft has had other effects as well.

“It has caused us to question our trust in others and be more prudent in our security. We are going to invest in a security system with cameras,” he said.

Not long after the Kuhns family reported their theft, members of the junior crew team returned to the boat house after practice on Quartermaster Harbor and found that nine backpacks and duffel bags containing cell phones, textbooks, clothes and money had been stolen.

Coach Richard Parr expressed frustration about the incident.

“It’s really unfortunate that some low-life people can have such a negative impact on decent kids who support each other and work really hard,” he said.

He also noted that he has coached in boathouses all over the world, and all of them have had some problems with theft, except Vashon — until now.

The team is taking steps to prevent such a situation from happening again, he said, and is locking the boathouse doors when rowers are on the water, even though it is logistically difficult to do so because the building’s large double doors lock only from the inside.

The arrest of Jeardoe, meanwhile, unfolded like a detective novel, with a Vashon father and modern-day technology taking center stage.

The night of the thefts, one of the rowers who had two bags stolen began to track her missing phone, using the Find My iPhone app.

The rower’s father, who wishes to remain anonymous, provided details of the search in an interview last week. Initially, he said, the tracking program indicated the phone was at the Motel 6 by the airport. Later, the tracking path showed that the phone was on the move and that whoever had it took a trip north, where authorities told him a pawn shop is located. The phone then returned to the White Center area.

The next day the father left Vashon and followed the path of the phone from the night before. His journey eventually brought him to a White Center parking lot, where the tracking app indicated the phone was currently located. There were only a few cars there, he said, and he planned to get their descriptions and their plate numbers. He got out of his car to do so, when he noticed two women unloading suitcases and bags from one of the cars and taking them into an apartment. One of the bags was a gym bag, but it caught his eye, he said, because it was being unloaded by a “very unathletic-looking woman.” Then they lifted out a plastic bag, which sounded like it had 15 cell phones in it, he said.

“I thought: These are the people,” he said.

He then walked a distance away, called 911 and gave the details about the car to the dispatcher, who instructed him to get back in his car. “That was good advice,” he added.

The car left, he said, but the app showed the stolen phone was still at the apartment building. When the deputies arrived, they located the women and the bags. The father had been so intent on getting the description of the vehicle, he said, that he could only identify one of the women. She claimed that all of the items in the bag were hers, he said, even though the bag was emblazoned with “Vashon Island Junior Crew” and he recognized several items, including a pair of jeans and his own belt his daughter liked to borrow. The iPhone, however, was the clincher, he said. It has a feature that instructs users to press a button if the phone is lost; when the button was pushed, the father’s own phone rang.

He was able to get some of his daughter’s belongings, he said, but her backpack with its expensive graphing calculator and $150 calculus textbook was still missing as of late last week. The woman is believed to be the one previously mentioned awaiting charges, but authorities have not verified that.

At press time, Kuhns’ gun and several of the crew members’ items had been reported found, but West said she did not yet have concrete information on all that will be returned.

West also said that the father’s description of the car — a stolen Subaru with stolen plates — proved extremely important in linking Jeardoe to the island crimes. An Issaquah resident had previously taken a photo of Jeardoe and the Subaru when Jeardoe was in that neighborhood, and the photo had been sent out to deputies. When those clues aligned, the connection became clear, West said.

Jeardoe, in fact, has a long history of crime. News accounts from this summer reported that Jeardoe was arrested on July 7. Police apprehended him in the West Seattle Thriftway parking lot while he was driving a stolen vehicle filled with stolen items. A .22 revolver and shotgun were also in the car. At the time, Jeardoe had been living in a trailer in a residential West Seattle neighborhood and was considered a likely suspect in several burglaries there.

Just four years before, news reports say, he had been involved with the Seattle Police Explorers, a program designed to interest youth in law enforcement careers, but was expelled for drug-related infractions and went on to be arrested for cocaine possession, methamphetamine possession, receiving stolen property, attempted theft and residential burglary.

He will be arraigned on Sept. 26.

— Sarah Low also contributed reporting to this article.

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