Boy, 6, helps identify suspect

Glen Burnie man also is wanted in Ocean City

September 02, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Gregory Mahan Jr. tells people he's going to be a cop someday -- and after yesterday you'd better believe him.

The 6-year-old helped police arrest a burglary suspect who authorities believe is responsible for break-ins at two Linthicum homes, four around Anne Arundel County and dozens of crimes across the state.

Police said Daniel Earl Gardner of Glen Burnie is also wanted for 54 counts of burglary, theft, forgery, and credit card offenses in Ocean City.

"The young man made my job easier," said Detective Michael Hruska, a Northern District officer who investigated the Linthicum burglaries.

Hruska was one of six Northern District officers who made Gregory an honorary Junior Officer and rewarded him with a $100 shopping spree at Toys R Us in Glen Burnie Mall yesterday.

It was Pokemon heaven for the slim, energetic boy who spent about $65 on the popular cards and action figures.

Officer Jefferson Golas drove Mary Jackson and her grandson to the mall in his cruiser. An awed Gregory leaned forward in the back seat of the car, then flopped back with his mouth open when he saw a crowd of policemen in front of the store.

Lt. Greg Eschelman squatted beside the boy and delivered the surprise.

"We are so proud of you and so happy that you did the right thing, these police officers decided you should go into Toys R Us and get as much as you want. Is that a cool deal to you?" he asked.

Eschelman slipped a junior officer badge onto the waist of the boy's jeans and Gregory jumped up and down with his fists in the air.

"Yeah! Cool! I win! Wooooo!" he shouted.

Anne Arundel County Police said Gregory was a key witness in a break-in Monday at his grandmother's home in Linthicum. The boy told police that a man appeared in the living room about 10: 30 a.m. and asked where his mother was. When he told him she was at work, the man asked who was watching him and he said his Nana was cutting the lawn.

"I told him I didn't want to talk to him," Gregory said. The boy went outside and told his grandmother there was a man in the house. Jackson said she didn't believe the boy, and walked through the house with him to prove that everything was OK.

But about a half-hour later, when Jackson discovered that her purse was missing, she started asking questions about the man.

"He said `Nana, he had on black sweats with white letters on it. He had on boots, he had black hair, and he had a mustache,' " Jackson said. "It was just unbelievable how much he remembered."

She called police.

Golas arrived at the house while Jackson was reporting the burglary to her credit card companies. One of them told Jackson that her card had already been used that morning -- at a gas station, a restaurant and a hotel.

"We were sitting in the car saying, `Hmmm, where is there a restaurant and a hotel near the crime scene?' " said Detective Keith Light, who, with Detective Maxwell Frye was listening to reports from Golas over the radio.

The officers went to a hotel in the 6900 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. and found that someone had just checked in under Jackson's name using her credit card.

They went to the room and found a man who matched the description given by the boy and who closely resembled the image in pictures taken by a Severna Park bank surveillance camera. Police said they suspect the man had been trying to pass stolen checks at area banks, but had eluded them.

They arrested the man, and later brought a photographic lineup of more than a dozen pictures to Jackson's home, asking Gregory to pick out the man he had seen in the house earlier.

"He picked out somebody within a minute or two," Jackson said. Detectives said the man he pointed to was the suspect.

Police described the suspect as a "one-man crime wave." Court records show Gardner has a lengthy record with charges dating to 1985 and a string of more than a dozen convictions for theft, writing bad checks, destruction of property, and drug violations.

In five days -- Thursday to Monday, when he was arrested -- police believe he stole at least two cars and burglarized six houses throughout the county, taking credit cards, cash and checks.

Anne Arundel police charged Gardner with breaking and entering, theft, forgery, stealing checks, credit-card violations and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was being held Wednesday in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on $75,000 bail.

Ocean City police said they had been tracking Gardner for a string of burglaries that began Aug. 3.

Police said they recovered several credit cards, photographs, stolen checks and other personal items believed to have been taken during the burglaries after arresting Gardner.

Jackson said she got back all of her belongings and that next time she'll be more careful about locking up her house, and she'll pay closer attention to Gregory.

"I felt terrible when I said `No, honey, there's no man in the house.' I will never ever not believe anything that child says to me."

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