By Lovepreet Dhinsa
SACRAMENTO, CA – Despite some vague and incomplete testimony from investigating officers, a judge here in Sacramento County Superior Court Tuesday set a trial for two defendants for first degree burglary that allegedly occurred on Nov. 25, 2019.
The two co-defendants allegedly stole a toolbox full of various tools in Elk Grove. The toolbox was worth $500, while the contents of the toolbox were worth approximately $3,500, according to the facts presented by the prosecution.
Witness police Officer Kyle Vanek was dispatched to the scene. He said, during testimony Tuesday, that he was informed the victim had been on vacation, and when he returned he noted a broken garage door. The victim then discovered that his toolbox was not in his garage.
The victim had installed surveillance cameras at his residence. One of these cameras faced the front door and the other was placed above the garage door. Both of these surveillance cameras were viewed by both officers.
According to Officer Vanek, the surveillance footage showed a gray-colored van in the driveway, where two subjects were walking up to the front door. He noticed one of the subjects turning the door knob and ringing the doorbell. After this, the subjects went back to their van before returning back to the front door to continue knocking.
The second surveillance camera, which was placed above the garage door, showed two subjects loading what appeared to be a toolbox into the gray-colored van and the van leaving the area shortly after. Officer Vanek described the video footage as low quality, but was able to see that the two subjects were one white male adult and one white female adult.
According to Officer Vanek, the victim identified both of these subjects in a lineup. The female in the video was described as Tiffany Brihart, whom the victim knew through a mutual contact.
The victim identified the male subject as Travis Knight, who was Tiffany’s boyfriend at the time. The victim stated he knew of Travis, when Tiffany had showed up to his residence one night after a fight with Knight. She had shown him a picture of Travis at that time.
In this line up of six photos that was shown to the victim, the victim believed that photo five or six matched the description of the subjects in the video. Despite knowing these individuals and seeing pictures of them beforehand, the victim had not been completely sure of their identity.
Officer Vanek also concluded that he would be able to identify the subjects in the video, if he were to see them again in court, despite not seeing this video footage for more than a whole year.
According to the officer, the only recollection he had of the male subject was that he was a “tall, white, skinny male.” The officer failed to recall anything else about his appearance or any specific details that were mentioned by the defense attorneys.
Under examination, the officer failed to notice and recall important details surrounding the video footage, such as the female subject waving at one of the cameras or the two subjects trying to unlock the door with their key.
Officer Vanek was also not aware of the female subject’s employment by the victim as a frequent house sitter, who was employed during the time he had been on vacation.
The officer said he failed to determine if a third person was inside the residence at the time, and he was unable to completely review the entire perimeter of the house.
The second witness called was Detective Sarah Dippe, who contacted the mother of the female subject on Dec. 26, 2019, to follow up. In this meeting, the mother had informed the detective that the victim had stolen the female’s cooler.
When questioned by the defense, Det. Dippe fell short with her answers and efforts in this case.
Det. Dippe admitted she failed to listen to the 911 call made by the victim, even though she stated that this is standard protocol. Det. Dippe also stated that the video footage was of low quality and at times it had been blurry.
The detective also failed to contact the female subject before coming into court, which was the opposite of what Brihart had done.
Not only did Brihart show up at the office, but she was told by the front desk staff that the detective was unavailable at that time and she would have to come back. Brihart had left her phone number and contact information for the detective, however, the detective apparently had no knowledge of this.
Further, the detective was not aware of the fact that the victim had sold Brihart’s cooler, nor of the fact that he was an alleged drug dealer.
Despite the detective’s efforts, she also failed to conclude that the victim had been a drug supplier to Brihart at that time, according to the defense—testimony suggested Brihart had regularly house sat for the victim in exchange for drugs.
Lovepreet Dhinsa is a junior undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Politics with a minor in Legal Studies. She has a passion for criminal defense law, and strives to go to law school to fight for indigent clients. As such, she is also involved in her university’s mock trial program and student government.
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