By Sarah Gregory
The defendants, Jeremy Yeck and Jennymarie Serr, are part of a group of individuals from Yuba City who allegedly stole a man’s safe out of the garage at his Yolo County residence. A co-defendant in the case, Alejandro Vargas, has apparently pled out and will be sentenced in August. The safe was stolen on the evening of December 16, 2015. The victim, a war veteran, called police the next morning and the investigation lasted for several months.
The prosecutor called the investigating officer to the stand. He asked the officer to list the contents of the safe. Among the property that was stolen were firearms, war memorabilia, and a substantial amount of cash.
A total of 10 firearms were reported stolen. Some of the war memorabilia included the victim’s Purple Heart and a firearm stamped with his unit number.
Almost two months into the investigation, on February 2, 2016, a man called in a tip to the police letting them know that the safe was in the possession of a man named “GW.”
After the officers tracked down GW and searched through his business unit, they found the safe. At first, GW said he found it by the river, however, after the officers started asking him questions about stolen property, he changed his story and told them that he knew it was stolen and about how he acquired it.
GW said he first encountered the safe while visiting Jenny Serr, co-defendant in this case, in Yuba City. He said they were “hanging out” when a green Dodge Durango backed up into her driveway. The driver, Alejandro Vargas, a tenant and friend of Ms. Serr, asked her if he and GW could unload a safe from the bed of the truck into her garage.
Investigating officers said Ms. Serr told them she had displayed her opposition to the idea and instantly became sick, which forced her to leave the room. This gave Mr. Vargas and GW a chance to hurriedly unload the safe and drag it into the garage. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Yeck arrived. Yeck and GW claimed that Serr had actually taken part in looting through the safe, even though she had previously been sick, and took her share with her inside the house.
Later that evening on December 16, Vargas, GW and Yeck all came back to Serr’s garage to open the safe. They attempted with several different power tools and finally managed to open it with a small portable electric band saw.
GW was handed an ArmaLite AR-15 rifle. When he saw that it did not have a firing pin in it, meaning it was inoperable, he immediately handed it back to Vargas. Yeck and Vargas divided up the firearms and $13,000 equally. GW did not want any of the guns or cash. The only item GW ended up taking with him was the safe.
While cross-examining the investigating officer, Mr. Yeck’s attorney, Jeffrey Raven, verified that shortly after obtaining the remains of the safe and questioning GW about the stolen property, the investigating officers obtained a search warrant for Ms. Serr’s residence. During the search, officers found military challenge coins, a signed baseball, and the victim’s prescription bottle of Oxycodone all in Serr’s bedroom. She told the officers that she had taken all of the victim’s possessions from Mr. Vargas’ room and planned to give the baseball to her son.
Next, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke, Ms. Serr’s attorney, cross-examined the officer. Mr. Gocke established that the victim was the only person living in the house that held the safe, since he is estranged from his wife, at the time of the burglary.
The investigating officers did verify that none of the accused individuals knew the victim or had previously been to his residence before.
Judge Daniel P. Maguire asked the officer if he knew which person received which guns when they originally split them up. He stated that he did not, but GW told the officer that he knew for sure that Mr. Vargas possessed the 1911 .45 caliber pistol.
There was a disagreement between the defense attorneys and the prosecutor about the number of guns each individual took with them once the safe was opened. The prosecutor argued that Mr. Yeck took half of the firearms and that is the basis under which Yeck should be held accountable. Mr. Raven, Yeck’s attorney disagreed.
Judge Maguire noted that, although it is unclear at this time how many firearms each accused individual took with them, the testimony of the officer is enough to substantiate that Mr. Yeck took at least half with him and is thus grounds to hold him accountable.
The attorneys also disagreed about the overall worth of the stolen property found in possession of Ms. Serr. Mr. Gocke, Serr’s attorney, requested the court to reduce the charge of possession of stolen property to a misdemeanor based on the speculation that all of the property found in Serr’s possession was below the value of $950.
The officer was recalled to the stand because of this disagreement. The prosecutor asked how much the police department had determined the value of the property to be. The officer stated that they found it to be about $1,000.
Ms. Serr had reportedly texted her husband the same day the safe was opened in her garage that she had acquired $1,000. The prosecutor also reminded the court of GW’s allegation that Serr had participated in the looting of the safe on December 16, 2015.
Judge Maguire ruled that GW’s statement is credible and denied the Mr. Gocke’s request for Serr’s charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor, based on the conjecture by GW and Yeck that Serr had partaken in the looting of the safe. Therefore, she would be held accountable.