David Irick had yet to finish fully installing his video surveillance system, so he was pleasantly surprised when his cameras captured a man breaking into his Howard County house earlier this month.
The 60-year-old was further astonished when he watched the footage. The bespectacled suspect — dressed in a collared shirt with rolled up sleeves and a red tie — hardly fit the image of a typical burglar.
"When I saw the tie, I thought that someone else had come to the house that day as well," Irick said, assuming that the man was a salesman or was taking a survey. But then he watched the young, sandy-haired man lug a safe out his front door.
"This was the guy," Irick said.
Howard County police dubbed the man the "preppy burglar" and distributed some of the video captured by Irick's cameras. An acquaintance of 30-year-old Jeremy Matthew Hall saw the footage on the news and called authorities, who quickly arrested Hall this week at his Silver Spring house.
Inside the house, police said, they found items taken in another burglary — the August break-in of a house on Parrs Ridge Drive in Spencerville in Montgomery County from which two guitars and safe filled with jewelry were taken.
Hall is facing burglary and other charges in two counties, and police say they are trying to determine if he can be linked to more break-ins.
"It was unsettling to watch the video, to see someone pushing through your window and into your home," Irick said. But 18 months ago, when his house was last broken into, he said he had "no clue" who was responsible.
This time, he's seen the face of the person responsible.
"It feels a lot better to have something to see," he said.
More than 24 hours after Hall's arrest, the so-called "preppy burglar" remained a bit of a mystery. Calls to his house on Silo Way, north of the Capital Beltway and west of Route 29, were not returned, and there is little about him in public records.
Hall has previous addresses in College Park and in Frostburg, near college campuses, and in Rockville and New York City.
Maryland court records show several speeding tickets, including guilty pleas to driving 28, 22 and 9 mph over the speed limits on residential streets near his home. In 2001, he was convicted on an excessive noise complaint in Frostburg and fined $250, and the local police sued him in civil court to get the fine paid.
Records also show that in March 2009 a court ordered him to pay $2,277 to Sun Trust Bank and that his wages were garnisheed. Details of that case could not be obtained Friday; what Hall does for a living also could not be ascertained.
How and why Hall allegedly found his way to Irick's house on Brown Bridge Road could not be learned. Irick has lived for 25 years on the two-lane road near the Montgomery County line in a house well off the street and shrouded by trees.
"Next door is pretty far away," Irick said.
He surmised that the burglar picked his house because it is one of the few that doesn't have cars parked in driveways during workday hours. Both Irick and police believe the burglar wore a dress shirt and gray pants to appear as if he was conducting business.
The man caught by Irick's camera held a sheet of paper in his hand as he rang the doorbell and then opened the storm door, peered through a small window and knocked again. It was Sept. 14 at 10:24 in the morning.
"My theory was that he went to a house and if somebody answered, he would say, 'I'm here doing a survey,'" Irick said. "If nobody answered, he was going to do what he was going to do."
Howard County police said that when no one answered the door, the man walked around back, where another camera caught him cutting the screen of a first-floor bedroom window, then forcing the window up. Police did not release that portion of the video.
Authorities did publicize images of the man leaving the house for the last time at 10:43 a.m. carrying a black safe that contained Irick's personal papers, including his will and his passport. Charging documents filed Friday in Howard County District Court say the burglar also took a black Sony boombox and a stereo receiver. Irick said he doesn't own fancy electronic equipment — no big flat-screen television sets, for example.
He described the receiver and boom box as old and "not even hooked up. I don't see him getting a lot of money for that stuff." The burglar who struck 18 months ago didn't get much either — about $100 in 10-dollar bills in a dresser drawer and some loose change.
But it was after that break-in that Irick said he started thinking about installing cameras. He didn't get around to it until a couple of months ago, when he won an employee incentive award at work — an award that allowed him to buy the $500 surveillance system with four cameras from online shopping site Amazon.
Irick placed two cameras out front, on his porch, and two out back. He was still working on permanently running the wires through his attic when the latest burglar struck. When he got home from work Sept. 14, he went to his bedroom and saw the cut screen.
"I immediately went to my cameras," he said.
What he saw were clear pictures of the burglary in progress — of the man knocking at 10:24 a.m., entering the back of the house at 10:29 a.m., removing items at 10:38 a.m. and leaving at 10:43 a.m. At some point the man put on black leather gloves and is seen rubbing a door handle, apparently trying to remove or smudge finger prints.
Howard County police tried for more than a week to identify the man. It wasn't until they released some of the footage that they said an acquaintance gave Hall up. Police said that when they arrested him at his house, they found a safe containing personal papers belonging to the owner of the Spencerville house that had been burglarized in August.
Hall spent a full day in the custody of two jurisdictions. Howard County police arrested him Wednesday night, and he was released early Thursday on $15,000 bail. Montgomery County police said they arrested him a few hours later, and he was released from their custody early Friday on $7,500 bail.