District Attorney’s Office says missteps in investigation prompts dismissal of charges
The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed all charges against a Huntersville man and a Cornelius couple tied separately to a string of home break-ins in south Charlotte.
Doubts about the initial charge against Carl Caleb Allen, of Huntersville, first arose more than a month ago after his mother, Diana Allen, followed leads and tracked down the couple that was later charged with being involved.
Caleb Allen was charged in one break-in, and Justin Aldrich and Anna Hoard, of 20317 Wilcher Court in Cornelius, faced charges related to three home break-ins and the theft of thousands of dollars in jewelry, guns and electronics.
Now, prosecutors have dropped charges against the three, saying a combination of misidentification of Allen and the mishandling of a search warrant by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police has left the cases too flimsy to take to trial. Police public information officer Robert Fey said last week that the department will not comment on any of the cases or the dismissal of the charges.
Nor will police officials say if they have other suspects in the rash of break-ins across south Charlotte.
Concord police actually apprehended Aldrich and Hoard, and they still face felony charges there along with a third man, Jose Becerra. Concord police arrested the trio after they allegedly tried to break into a house while a 19-year-old woman was inside. The woman called 911, and officers nearby found Hoard and Becerra sitting in a red Jeep Grand Cherokee outside the house and Aldrich coming around the back of the home.
For now, Aldrich and Hoard are free on bond on the Concord charges.
Arrests and dismissals
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police told the Herald Weekly earlier this year that four home break-ins were tied to the sighting of a red Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Police arrested Allen, a heroin addict going through drug treatment, on Feb. 16 on charges of breaking-and-entering and larceny related to the Jan. 27 break-in at 1901 Sharon Lane.
Authorities say the eyewitness description from the homeowner and collaborating identification from an “out-of-county police officer” from a gas station surveillance tape `led to the arrest. However, prosecutors felt the identifications were too weak to hold up under defense scrutiny.
“The eyewitness’ identification of (Allen) as the man she saw leaving her driveway seconds after the break-in was based on a single, fleeting encounter,” the dismissal summary reads. “He is a stranger to her. Officers now believe she may have been mistaken... Similarly, the identification of (Allen) by an out-of-county police officer from a grainy store surveillance video is now cast in doubt.
“(Jurors) are certain to have reasonable doubt and would find (Allen) not guilty.”
But in the press, police didn’t doubt
Caleb Allen’s arrest, telling a TV station they got the “Clyde of Bonnie and Clyde.”
But Diana Allen didn’t believe it. Though she understood why police suspected her son – he will face charges later this month in a heroin dealing case – she said her son was meeting with a drug counselor and passed a drug test the day of the burglary.
She called several of her son’s associates, hoping to find out who may be involved in the robberies to clear her son’s name. One of the people said Aldrich and Hoard were involved.
Diana Allen; her brother, Ken Allen; and friend Greg Damm staked out their Matthew’s apartment and Jeep overnight, calling 911 more than once to try to get police to check out the Jeep and the couple. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police refused to respond, Ken Allen said previously.
The next morning, when the couple tried to drive away, Diana and Ken Allen chased the Jeep, while calling police again, but the couple escaped in traffic.
Court records show police followed Allen’s tip a day later and went to the Matthews’ house, eventually getting a search warrant for the apartment rented by Aldrich and Hoard and recovering thousands of dollars in stolen property connected to the break-ins.
But prosecutors dropped the stolen goods charges, citing two reasons.
First, in the dismissal summary, the District Attorney’s Office said police actions on Feb. 24, when they went to the apartment, “taints the application (for) and undermines the validity of the search warrant, making it more likely than not that a court would suppress all evidence flowing from the search of the bedroom.”
Officers had not received the couple’s permission to search the room and, instead, allowed the landlord to force open the apartment door, which the landlord had no right to do, prosecutors said. In justification for their search warrant, police officers used descriptions of jewelry they saw through the open apartment door. Prosecutors reasoned that a judge could throw out that evidence.
Second, prosecutors said the earlier charge against Allen in one of the break-ins would enable a defense attorney to raise “reasonable doubt” on the subsequent arrest of Aldrich and Hoard if the case went to trial.
“...There is the problem of codefendant Carl Allen, who was identified by a witness who told police she saw him leaving her home seconds after it was broken into,” the summary reads. “Although the identification of Allen is now in doubt, his suspected involvement in the case will linger to create reasonable doubt as to (Aldrich). Police cannot currently prove the existence of a conspiracy among all three defendants, but nor can they exclude that possibility. Without such a proven link, jurors would be forced to decide which of the known suspects actually committed the break-ins.
“They are certain to have reasonable doubt and would find (Aldrich) not guilty.”
Good, but troubling, news
“The whole thing has been like a dream, really,” Caleb Allen told the Herald Weekly. “The whole case was handled poorly, very poorly. I don’t know what the cops were actually thinking. I don’t know what their motives were. Obviously, they would have gone through (with the charges) until the other two people got caught.
“… At the beginning I didn’t think I would get out of this. I thought the cops would do whatever in their power to convict me.”