By Susan Gager
COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. — A Cottage Grove man took matters into his own hands after being the victim of a burglary. A burglar made off with the man’s most valuable possessions. But in a high-tech twist, social media helped nab the suspect.
UO Law student Benjamin Morgan came home to find his house had been burglarized. He says a gut-wrenching feeling of violation soon turned to anger.
“Then I started getting angry saying what did they take? I started looking through my items and they took a Playstation, a couple of laptops, some gold and silver items that I had,” Morgan said.
In all, a haul valued at around $13,000. He filed a report with Cottage Grove authorities and then heard nothing.
“After that I kind of figured I was on my own. It was time to do a little bit of work and see if I could get some leads myself,” Morgan said.
He turned to his computer for answers. And they came, thanks to his G-mail account which is connected to Google.
“I clicked on my web search history and I started noticing all these irregularities. Things I hadn’t been searching for like parts for a ’96 Camaro, adult websites and things like that,” Morgan said.
Morgan built up 3 weeks’ worth of searches, which gave him a few clues as to who the suspect was. But his surveillance finally paid off when a MapQuest search led him straight to 25-year-old Darrell Smith. Morgan drove to Smith’s Portland address. Sure enough, a Camaro was parked in the driveway, and Smith was taking out the trash.
“It was the a-ha got you moment! He probably never ever thought in the world that he was going to see me again. To see me roll down his street and know his address was probably pretty shocking for him,” Morgan said.
Morgan called the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and deputies arrested Smith. They got a search warrant for the house. Friday morning deputies found Morgan’s stuff. He was jazzed, but even more proud he was tenacious enough to solve the case on his own.
“With the way today’s media is and social outlets and the way we live in an electronic world- there are ways to figure it out,” Morgan said.
Smith is charged with first-degree theft and a probation violation for an unlawful use of a weapon. Morgan says he didn’t personally know Smith, but figured out on Facebook that they shared mutual friends.