By William McCurry
SACRAMENTO – Testimony here in a preliminary hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court this week suggested a good neighbor may have stopped a burglary in progress in September 2020.
As he was allegedly burglarizing the victim’s home, defendant Angel Cortez was heard in the victim’s backyard by the victim’s neighbor. After the neighbor contacted the victim to say someone was in his backyard, the victim rushed home and called the police.
Deputy District Attorney Allison Wieder called her first witness to testify, Sacramento Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Nguyen, who was the responding officer to the 9-1-1 call that was received from the victim about a burglary in progress.
When he arrived on the scene, he met the victim outside his residence and was told that the “side gate was broken and kicked in.” As Nguyen and a K-9 deputy entered the side gate to the backyard, Deputy Nguyen testified the gate “looked damaged at the lower part of the gate.”
As they entered through the side gate into the victim’s backyard, they encountered Cortez about 10 feet away. Nguyen testified.
Nguyen said defendant Cortez said that the “house looked like it needed repairs and that he was the one that could fix or repair the house.” He also told the deputy that the garage door was unlocked.
Nguyen saw that the door that led into the main residence “at one point had an exterior security door and it was removed and left off to the side.” There was also a screen on the ground in front of the door that the victim said should have been on the window.
In a cross from Assistant Public Defender Pamela Dominisse, Deputy Nguyen testified the fence around the backyard needed repair and the front yard did not look well maintained. He said it appeared that it hasn’t been taken care of in awhile.
When entering the backyard of the house, Nguyen stated that there was a lot of property in the way of the path and the plants looked “unkept.” “To me it didn’t look like anyone had been back there to do general maintenance,” said Nguyen.
When the victim’s neighbor informed the victim that someone was in his backyard, he claimed to have heard someone talking. Nguyen said that the neighbor didn’t see anyone or hear a loud noise, but just heard someone’s voice in his backyard.
Deputy Nguyen stated that Cortez was cooperative with him throughout the whole process.
Wieder then called her second witness, Deputy Troy Mahon, who created a perimeter around the area for containment since there were already two responding officers on the scene.
Later in the day he spoke to the victim who owned the home. Deputy Mahon was informed that he lived alone and received a phone call that his house was being burglarized. He called the police because his house has recently been burglarized.
The victim also said he had never seen Cortez before. He told Mahon that the back fence had been broken into to allow entry into his home. He normally leaves his garage unlocked but the lights were on, which he turned off before leaving, and another door inside his garage was open.
On the initial day of the alleged burglary, the victim was unsure if anything was taken. During a follow-up he told Mahon he attempted to contact the Sacramento County Sherriff’s Office to give them information on what was taken, but did not fill out a missing property form.
“He did tell me he believes a $30 Amazon package with camcorder batteries was taken as well as a $100 staple gun in a black case,” said Mahon. The victim only indicated these items were inside the house.
“As the evidence is presented this morning, and I do understand we’re here at a preliminary hearing with a lower standard but it appears the information is falling short to support the residential burglary with the attempt to commit a felony or larceny,” said PD Dominisse. She believes this is a trespassing onto the property but the evidence lacks showing the forceful entry into the residence.
Judge Emily Vasquez disagreed with her argument.
“I do find that based on the evidence presented in this preliminary hearing by the officers that there is sufficient evidence, that the People have presented sufficient evidence for a holding order and they have provided sufficient evidence for each of the elements of residential first-degree burglary,” the judge said.
Cortez’s jury trial is set for June 7.
William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.
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