The typical burglar caught breaking into homes is a young man, usually involved with drugs either as a user, dealer, or both, and who is stealing property to support a habit, or supplement his income. Sonoma County, however, recently had a high-profile case involving three women who were targeting vacation homes for burglaries, and the Sheriff’s Office just announced another woman caught in a Guerneville break in.
Guerneville is a small tourist town along the Russian River that flows from the Northern California Coastal Range to the sea through the redwood forests of Sonoma County. It is a popular destination for people getting away from San Francisco and the Bay Area to enjoy the river, the surrounding wine country, redwood forests and the nearby beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Like many resort communities, the town of under 5000 residents has a large number of vacation homes that owners will both use and rent out. The Sheriff’s Department has recently expressed concern over a spike in burglaries in these homes all over Sonoma County, but especially in Guerneville, which had 15 reported incidents in the previous six months.
In December, three women – Jasmine Marie Roper, Sarah Tarango, and Ronni Roxanne Stout – were arrested in a high profile case, accused of targeting these types of homes, stealing flat screen TVs, furniture and other household goods. The homes they had been linked to were in other Sonoma County towns along Highway 101, such as Healdsburg and Windsor.
On March 29, just a couple of weeks after the Sheriff’s Office had publicized the rental home burglary problem, they received a call from a resident in Guerneville reporting a suspicious looking woman in a burgundy BMW sedan in front of one of the homes that had already been burglarized in February. The home was located on Summit Avenue, which runs up a hill in the Guernewood Park neighborhood, overlooking the Russian River. The resident wrote down the license plate of the car to give to the dispatcher. Deputies soon arrived but the woman and her car were gone. They did, however, see that the home had been broken into, and it appeared that a television was missing.
Using the license plate, the Sheriff’s Office tracked the car to a home in Santa Rosa. Sheriff’s detectives set up surveillance, and within 2 hours found the suspect, 42-year-old Lisa Ann Lopez. She had the stolen TV in the back seat of the BMW, and a further search of the car and her small home revealed more stolen property from vacation homes in Sonoma, Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Bodega Bay, and Guerneville. Though there is no indication that Lopez was connected to the three arrested in December, between the four of them, a large part of the more than 50 vacation home burglaries can now be accounted for.
What would account for women being the culprits in so many vacation home burglaries? Perhaps they feel they will be less suspicious when seen outside a rental home than a man would. It appears that they are doing research prior to the break-ins, and that they are only targeting houses when they knew that no one will be there at the time. Neighbors are probably used to seeing new people coming and going, and nearby houses are often vacant anyway. Detectives believed on initial investigation that most of the burglaries were related, and are hoping that this arrest, following the arrest of the previous three, may put a stop to the vacation home thefts. Residents and homeowners, meanwhile, are aware of the problem, and like the person who called in this incident, much more alert to suspicious activity.
Lisa Ann Lopez was booked into Sonoma County jail on charges of burglary, possession of stolen property, and probation violation. Her bail was set at a relatively high $250,000 based on the number of burglaries she is now suspected of. She reportedly remains in custody. Anyone with any information about Lopez is encouraged to call Detective Donald Fletcher at 707-565-2185.