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Day: March 8, 2014

KPD busts burglary ring


On Friday, Feb. 28 at about 5 a.m., members of the Keizer Police Department, assisted by members of the Salem Police Department SWAT Team, served a search warrant at 3665 Brooks Avenue NE as part of an ongoing serial burglary investigation and made four arrests.

In turn, that led to additional arrests and the recovery of stolen items including two dogs.

This search warrant was executed precisely two years, to the day, after KPD served another search warrant at the same location for the same activity involving many of the same suspects.

Beginning in November 2013, Keizer residents began to report what would later be recognized by KPD’s crime analyst and detectives as a 16-case residential burglary spree that appeared to be committed by the same suspect or group of suspects. These burglaries occurred throughout the city.

Entry was usually gained through a back door or window, which was often unlocked. The residences were usually ransacked and items stolen included jewelry, cash, personal electronics, laptop computers, tablets, DVD players, handguns, shoes, clothing and big screen TVs.

The case ultimately broke open when one of the involved persons activated a Kindle Fire that was stolen during one of the burglaries. That led investigators to the group that had been arrested in connection with a February 28, 2012 search warrant.

For this current search warrant, Salem SWAT made initial contact at the residence on account of the multiple firearms that were stolen. Once the residence was secure, SWAT turned it over to members of the Keizer Police Criminal Investigations Unit and the Community Response Unit, who undertook the task of searching it in an attempt to identify and recover stolen property.

Investigators recovered several laptop computers, two handguns, jewelry, clothing, shoes, swords and other miscellaneous items that had been reported stolen by the burglary victims and/or were apparently stolen. They also recovered numerous large car parts from within the residence, including an entire engine, hood, bumper and seats from a stolen 2013 Nissan Altima.

Although investigators weren’t specifically searching for drugs, they located a small amount of methamphetamine in the residence, as well as the smoking pipes which typically accompany that.

Investigators also located something they weren’t searching for: two dogs. One was a small white and brown dog, most likely a Chihuahua. The other was a young female brindle-colored Bull Mastiff. She appeared to be in good shape, but the stories about to whom she belonged and where she came from didn’t add up.

Investigators recognized her as an expensive dog and began to suspect that she might belong to someone other than any of the suspects.

Arrested from within the residence were a mother and two of her sons, as well as one of the son’s girlfriends.

• Sunny Garcia, 40, home owner and mother, was arrested for Theft I By Receiving.

• Victor Stehlin, 23, was arrested for Theft I By Receiving and Possession of a Controlled Substance (Methamphetamine).

• Nicholas Stehlin, 21, was arrested for Burglary I (four counts), Attempted Burglary I and Felon In Possession of a Firearm.

• Heather Smith, 26, was arrested for Theft I By Receiving and Possession of a Controlled Substance (Methamphetamine).

When all of the four occupants of the home were arrested and removed from the home, there was nobody left to care for either dog. Investigators called the Marion County Animal Control Department. The responding animal control officer immediately recognized the brindle-colored dog as having been stolen from a residence in South Salem.

Investigators also located a posting on Craigslist, which listed the dog as missing. She was apparently stolen during a burglary that occurred on Feb. 21. The dog, Precious, was ultimately reunited with her owner.

While members of the Community Response Unit continued to finish searching the Brooks address, investigators began to search for additional persons who were apparently involved.

Alvaro Torres-Lopez from West Salem, 20, was found to have been pawning property stolen in the Keizer burglaries. He was arrested for Theft I by Receiving.

His brother Abraham Torres-Lopez, 17, also from West Salem, was also arrested for Burglary I (six counts) and Attempted Burglary I. Stolen items, including a big screen TV, were recovered from this residence.

On March 3, investigators arrested Marissa Regalado, 25, for Theft I By Receiving, for having received numerous stolen articles from the persons involved in committing the burglaries. She was the person who attempted to register the stolen Kindle Fire for personal use.

On Tuesday, March 4, KPD detectives travelled to Bonanza, where they arrested another son of Sunny Garcia’s in connection with the burglaries, Armando Stehlin Garcia, 18.

Although he was in a youth ranch facility operated by the Oregon Youth Authority, he was frequently returning to Salem and Keizer during the time frame of these burglaries, for “home visits” that were permitted.

He became involved in the recent burglaries while out on leave. Armando Stehlin was arrested for Burglary I (seven counts).

KPD investigators are also clearing six to eight burglaries that occurred in Salem.

The Keizer burglaries that have been cleared thus far occurred at:

• 4400 block Toni Avenue N

• 200 block Appleblossom Avenue N

• 1900 block Chelan Avenue NE

• 400 block Dennis Lane NE

• 5700 block Waterford Way N

• 7000 block 8th Court NE

• 6100 block Bingtree Court NE

• 1900 block Modoc Drive NE

• 400 block Wilshire Drive N

• 5200 block Todd Court N

• 7000 block Offenbach Court N

• 6900 block Nottingham Drive NE


As a matter of record, those persons arrested in the 2012 case were Sunny Garcia, Nicholas Stehlin, Abraham Torres-Lopez, Alvaro Garcia and Armando Stehlin-Garcia. Most were rearrested in connection with this most recent crime spree. Some were still on supervised probation stemming from the 2012 case.

All suspects have been lodged in the Marion County Correctional Facility except Abraham Torres-Lopez, who was lodged at the Mid-Valley Juvenile Detention Facility.

This investigation is ongoing. Investigators are continuing to sort through a large number of items seized from the Brooks residence. They are contacting those persons who have reported items which match the description of items seized.

The victim from the Nottingham Drive burglary also reported that the suspect(s) caused injury to her dog. Investigators are still investigating that matter.

Anyone with additional information about these cases is asked to call Det. Chris Nelson at 503-390-3713, ext. 3489.

According to the detectives with the KPD, the fact that most of these residences were not secured – having either an unlocked door or window – serves as a reminder about the importance of practicing effective crime prevention strategies.

Preliminary information is also that perhaps none of the homes were protected by an alarm.

Keizer Police are still tracking down a case from Salem where a vehicle was stolen during the burglary, which investigators have reason to believe was parked in the garage but with the keys left in the ignition.

Celt filmmaker debuting new sci-fi short at SXSW


Zeek Earl works with an actor on the set of his latest short film, Prospect. (Submitted photo)
Zeek Earl works with an actor on the set of his latest short film, Prospect. (Submitted photo)

Of the Keizertimes

It’s going to be a big week for McNary High School alum Zeek Earl.

On Sunday, March 9, his latest film, Prospect, will make it’s debut at South by Southwest (SXSW), an Austin, Texas-based music, film and interactive festival spotlighting indie talent. But, he might have chosen another profession entirely if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm and insight gleaned from Celtic film studies teacher Jason Heimerdinger.

“I took film appreciation from Mr. Heimerdinger my freshman year. I thought it was going to be a super-easy, filler class,” Earl said. “On the contrary, Mr. Heimerdinger taught us actual film theory and I loved it. I was inspired to take the actual productions classes and went from there.”

Earl, a Seattle-based filmmaker, debuted his first feature at McNary as a fund raiser for a friend’s cancer treatments, and he’s parlayed lessons from Heimerdinger into a full-blown filmmaking career.


The McNary High School fine arts department is hosting its annual fundraiser auction, Knight of Arts, Saturday, March 8. In the lead-up to that night, Keizertimes is looking at how McNary teachers prepared their students for life in artistic pursuits. Tickets are on sale now at the McNary main office.
The McNary High School fine arts department is hosting its annual fundraiser auction, Knight of Arts, Saturday, March 8. In the lead-up to that night, Keizertimes is looking at how McNary teachers prepared their students for life in artistic pursuits. Tickets are on sale now at the McNary main office.

Earl spent more time in the film room of McNary than any other in the school. When he ran the gamut of classes Heimerdinger offered, Earl took on film-specific independent studies to round out his experience.

“I took some creative writing as well and doing student leadership helped a lot with learning how to plan productions,” Earl said. “I was definitely encouraged and given avenues outside of class to show and promote my films which in a way is really the foundation for the business side of what I do now professionally.”

While churning out movies made with casts comprised of friends nearly every year of his high school career, Earl entertained the idea of going on to film school, but opted to pursue a degree in English and creative writing from Seattle Pacific University. He graduated in 2008 at the height of the recession.

“Having no luck finding a job in the creative industry, I turned to making ads with friends much as I had made movies in high school for a variety of online contests. I was successful enough to pay off my student loans and, ultimately, start a production company, Shep Films,” he said.

While commercials and contests were paying the bills, Earl kept his eye on making a segue into narrative films. His first short, In the Pines, a tale of alien encounter, debuted at the 2012 SXSW festival. Staying focused on the story and using the same equipment he used for the paid jobs, Earl pulled it off with a budget of $3,000.

In the Pines eventually won Best Sci-Fi Short at the Eugene Film Festival, and it wasn’t long before he decided to tackle another narrative. In 2012, Earl and his production partner, Chris Caldwell, released a teaser for their next project, Prospect, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund it.

Prospect is a sci-fi story about a girl and her father searching for materials on a toxic planet. The goal of the crowd-funding campaign was $18,000, but it ended with more than $21,000 in pledges and something else Earl didn’t expect.

“It attracted the help of volunteers who chipped in to complete the film and attracted the attention of a manager in Los Angeles now helping us find a place for our first feature film, a big-screen version of In the Pines,” Earl said.

All the help, and extra money, allowed Earl and his team to spend months creating detailed costumes for the Prospect shoot and and allowed him to spend time out of the office filming in Washington’s Hoh Rainforest.

Once Prospect debuts at SXSW, Earl hopes to make the short available for free online. He and Caldwell are also preparing a feature-length version to shop around in LA.

While he’s experienced success that’s hard to find in an overly-competitive industry, Earl said it’s his classes at McNary that paved the way.

“I can’t be more grateful for the random set of circumstances that placed me in a classroom with Jason Heimerdinger – a teacher who had the training and took the art of filmmaking seriously. Where art classes in public high schools can often be relegated to a lower standard, Jason was critical of my work and pushed me to new levels,” he said. “This didn’t just propel into what is now my chosen profession, but a literal obsession. I now, 12 years after that first film appreciation class, eat, breath, drink and live filmmaking. All in all, that’s McNary High School’s fault.”