At about 1:40 a.m. on June 17, an Edgewood Road woman sleeping on a couch was woken up by her dog as it barked and ran toward the kitchen.
She followed the dog, found the back door open and figured friends of her son forgot to shut it. She went back to sleep.
It was only the next morning that she noticed her pocketbook, a Gateway laptop computer, a red Game Boy Color and green Game Boy Advance were all missing from the kitchen table.
Those stolen items would later figure in the arrest of Nelson Rivera, 24, of Trumbull, accused of being one of the burglars in a ring that swept through Darien neighborhoods last month. Thieves opened unlocked vehicle and house doors at dozens of homes in town.
unlocked the case partly with one relatively new technological tool—a license plate reader—and two older technologies—store video cameras and credit card records.
They also got cooperation from a witness who may have had no idea that the rental car she let her boyfriend use was, according to police, the car used to drive to and from the burglaries.
The following account of the investigation comes from the Darien police affidavit for a warrant to arrest Nelson Rivera, the first man taken into custody in the case. This account is only from the police perspective, and Rivera (as well as Livelle Sampson of Bridgeport, also arrested in connection with the case) have not been found guilty by a court of law.
Darien Police Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, a spokesman for the department, could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The day after the burglaries
After the Edgewood Road woman got up the next morning and noticed several of her possessions gone, she checked her online MasterCard statement. She found her card hd been used at a McDonald's restaurant in the Bronx at 7 a.m., and later at a garage and movie theater in Manhattan.
On the day the Edgewood Road woman was discovering someone using her stolen MasterCard, about a thousand feet away a Parsons Lane woman was also disturbed to find her pocketbook missing. It had been stolen from her unlocked, 2005 Acura MDX parked in her driveway.
The purse and nearly all of its contents were later found dumped near 15 Fairfield Ave. Missing from the items recovered was an American Express credit card in her name.
Tale of two cameras
At 2:56 a.m., June 18, that credit card was used at a gas station in Bridgeport. That station had surveillance cameras, and those cameras allowed police to see a man get out of a silver vehicle parked near the gas station, then buy $175.03 worth of cigarettes and cigars. He carried them back to the car in a large black plastic gag.
Since the man was wearing a sweatshirt and baseball cap (with a large white "Y" on the front), police could not see his face well enough to identify him. They did know that the man signed his name as "Nelson Rivera" when he used Perry's credit card.
Here's where the newer technology came in: On the night of June 17-18, when the burglaries took place, Darien Police Officer Daniel Gorton was in a marked patrol car with a license plate reader (also known as an LPR). The LPR not only captured images of car license plates, it also recorded the time the picture was taken and the latitude and longitude.
Silver car identified
Gorton was parked off of Middlesex Road between the intersections of Edgerton Road and Noroton Avenue, and at 12:07 a.m. on June 18, according to his device, it took a picture of a passing silver car.
The car was later identified as one rented by Cristiana Cusano, who said she rented it on behalf of her boyfriend, Joshua Rivera, 21, because he didn't have a credit card and therefore couldn't rent it himself.
By June 19, Darien detectives had connected the silver car in the Bridgeport gas station's surveillance tape to the silver car seen in the LPR Gorton was operating. They spoke with Cusano, who cooperated with them.
"Cusano immediately identified the male seen in the footage as Nelson Rivera by his gait, style of dress and mannerisms," Detective Chet Perkowski wrote in the arrest warrant application now filed in state Superior Court in Stamford.
A visit to the Rivera neighborhood
By about 7 p.m. that day (June 19), Perkowski and another Darien detective had stopped by the Rivera home in Trumbull and saw the car Cusano had rented parked in the driveway.
At 8:15 p.m., a man got in the car and started driving it away. The two Darien detectives stopped the vehicle and found that Nelson Rivera was the driver. They also saw a big black plastic bag in the car, a red Gameboy Color video game system on the back seat and a Coach brand wallet on the floor in front of the back seat.
Trumbull police were called in, and they seized both the vehicle and Rivera. The next day, police were able to get a search warrant to look inside the vehicle.
Stolen items found
"[D]uring the search of the vehicle a AAA membership card was found on the rear floor," Perkowski wrote. It belonged to the Edgewood Road woman. A blue baseball cap with a large white "Y" on it was also found, and it matched the description of the hat worn by the man buying cigarettes at the gas station.
The Gateway laptop stolen from the Edgewood Road home was found to have been pawned by Rivera but later retrieved by him on June 20. The serial number recorded by the pawn shop showed it was the one owned by a resident in the Edgewood home.
Arrested and in jail
By June 25, Darien police applied for and received approval for a warrant for Rivera's arrest.
Rivera was arrested by Darien police on Monday, June 28 and that day or the next was arraigned in state Superior Court in Stamford. He remains in jail on $50,000 bond, and his next court appearance is scheduled for July 11.
Rivera was charged with two counts of using a revoked credit card to buy less than $500, two counts of credit card theft, and one count each of second-degree and third-degree burlary.
Police later arrested Livelle Sampson, 21, of Bridgeport, on an accusation he helped in the burglary scheme in some way. Darien police have said the investigation is continuing and more arrests are expected.
Editor's note: These other articles are also related to the string of burglaries:
- (June 19)
- (June 11)
- (June 5)