SNOW HILL – A Berlin man arrested last December on burglary and theft charges after police connected him to a week-long spree at a vacant house for sale, including wild parties, several pay-per-view adult movie rentals and hundreds of dollars worth of calls to phone dating services, all on the homeowner’s dime, pleaded guilty this week to one count of felony theft and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The bizarre story began to unfold on Dec. 23, 2008 when Berlin police responded to a residence on Branch Street for a reported burglary. Upon arrival, police observed a window broken in the back door, which was standing ajar. An agent for a real estate company that was listing the vacant home for sale told police the residence seemed “out of sorts” and somebody had clearly been inside.
The real estate agent told police nothing appeared to be damaged or stolen except for the broken window on the back door. She also told police she had been in contact with the property owner, who reported receiving a cable bill for several pay-per-view adult movies at a time when the home was vacant.
Later that same day, Berlin police met with the property owner who told them they only thing he immediately noticed missing was a 2004 World Series baseball signed by the Boston Red Sox. The property owner later reported a more detailed list of what was missing, including a small statue, several children’s Disney costumes and a small, plastic doll with a porcelain face, which would later proved to be a key piece of evidence in solving the case.
Berlin police began to develop leads and focused attention on Walter Albert Younie, 60, who had once lived on Branch Street. Younie was no stranger to local law enforcement officials and had been in and out jail for a variety of offenses over the years including a rather infamous case when he supplied handcuff keys to a fellow prisoner in an inmate transfer van in the summer of 2005. The prisoner escaped in front of the courthouse in Ocean City, fled the area, took a hostage in a nearby hotel, commandeered a taxi and fled into Delaware before being caught days later.
In March, Berlin police met with one of Younie’s known female associates who told them Younie had given her a small doll with a porcelain face as a Christmas present two days after the break-in on Branch Street was reported. The doll precisely matched the description provided by the property owner after the burglary back in December. With that bit of evidence, Berlin Police later that same day questioned Younie and he admitted breaking into the residence and staying in the vacant home for about a week in December.
Meanwhile, the property owner had prepared a better accounting of what had gone on in his home during the period in question. In all, 14 pay-per-view adult movies had been ordered at the tune of $13.99 each. In addition, a $676 phone bill reflected numerous calls to various dating services around the country between Dec. 11 and Dec. 22. When asked about the phone calls and the adult movies, Younie admitted he spent several nights at the residence during which he was “enjoying himself.”
Younie told police he had just gotten out of prison and “didn’t have any place to go,” and that he “had to survive,” according to police reports. He also told police he had several people over and had parties that involved excessive drinking and drug use. Apparently, Younie and his cronies had at least some respect for the property they had crashed. The investigation revealed no evidence of the aforementioned activity and the residence was clean and free of any trash or refuse.
This week in Circuit Court, Younie pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft and was sentenced to seven years in jail. He was also ordered to pay $676.54 in restitution to the property owner.