Evidence left behind at three burglarized elementary schools in late November in Santa Cruz County led authorities to a suspect who was arrested this morning in Watsonville, county sheriff’s officials said. On the morning of Nov. 27 three separate overnight burglaries were reported at Mar Vista Elementary School in Aptos, Live Oak Elementary School in unincorporated Santa Cruz, and Bradley Elementary School in unincorporated Watsonville. This morning around 9 a.m. sheriff’s investigators arrested Jaime Mendoza, 31, of Watsonville, at his home on two counts of felony burglary in connection with the school break-ins, sheriff’s officials said. He was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail and held on $25,000 bail, officials said.
The sheriff’s office tracked him down after physical evidence from Mar Vista and Live Oak elementary schools was analyzed. Mendoza is currently on probation in Monterey County for theft-related crimes, sheriff’s officials said. Early in the morning of Nov. 27, an alarm was set off at Bradley Elementary. Responding deputies found an office door ajar and a computer moved, but no equipment appeared to have been taken off the premises, sheriff’s officials said. Later that morning, the sheriff’s office received reports from the two other elementary schools that early morning break-ins had occurred at those campuses as well.
At Live Oak Elementary, the thief had entered the staff lounge and taken a computer and printer. The intruder also attempted to burglarize other parts of the school, but was unsuccessful. At the third burglary at Mar Vista Elementary, the library was damaged when the burglar smashed a window to enter the building to steal computers. However, the computers were chained together, preventing the theft. The library was found a mess with computers strewn across desks and glass shards from the broken windows littering the room, sheriff’s officials said.