Elusive 'Rock Burglar' Arrested after 17 Years on the Run - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Elusive 'Rock Burglar' Arrested after 17 Years on the Run

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Friday morning at a south Phoenix restaurant, officers arrested 58-year-old Robert James Neese, suspected of being the 'Rock Burglar.'

The notorious Rock Burglar eluded capture for 17 years and stole as much as $10 million in jewelry and cash.

Authorities say Neese is thought to be responsible for 337 burglaries in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills, and Cave Creek.

The sheriff's office says he would target upscale homes and choose his victims carefully -- and then break in by throwing a rock at a window.

Sheriff's investigators say the Rock Burglar is an out of work career criminal that's been living in a trailer park here in the valley -- and his string of burglaries came to an end, thanks some high tech police work.

He first struck in 1993, the same year Sheriff Joe Arpaio took office.

"I always said throughout my career one day I want to catch the Rock Burglar on my watch," said the sheriff Friday. "Thank law enforcement officers for making that come true."

Authorities started building the case a few months ago.

Investigators focused on about 60 burglaries in Fountain Hills, and they suspected the Rock Burglar. Detectives used computer models, studying probability, and picked 3 possible houses most likely to be hit next.

"We had a very good location, an anchor location we were able to set up, did scouting like a burglar would do," says Lt. Dave Munley.

Deputies did surveillance and it paid off -- they say they caught Neese in the act.

Jay Schlum, the mayor of Fountain Hills, says this arrest is a huge relief.

"This is a crime that shakes folks to the core, it violates their sense of safety and it's great this long-time bad guy has been captured."

Investigators say DNA evidence links him to several unsolved burglaries from years back. Paradise Valley Commander Alan Laitsch spent years trying to track down the Rock Burglar.

"I actually worried that someday I might retire without this guy going to jail so I commend the Sheriff's Department for an outstanding job the other night," says Cmdr. Laitsch.

We talked to Sharyl Bancroft, one of Neese's alleged victims.

"He was probably only in our house for two minutes but he totally ransacked the master bedroom, you know you feel very violated," she told us. "Those are things that had personal value and you can't replace them... something you mother or father or grandmother handed down to you."

Bancroft has some high profile company. Other victims of the burglar include former Vice President Dan Quayle and two Arizona Diamondbacks players.

From the beginning, there have been several departments working this case -- Scottsdale Police, Paradise Valley Police and the Sheriff's Office.

Neese has previously served time in prison for what else -- burglary. The county attorney is now poring over hundreds of old cases, working on new charges for the accused Rock Burglar.

Authorities are also trying to figure out with Neese had an accomplice or a partner during his long burglary spree.

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