Fields burglary suspect pleads not guilty
On Feb. 12, a man accused of breaking into Fields and Schoenfeldt Hall over winter break is scheduled to go on trial on charges of burglary and theft, according to Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Adam Gibbs.
According to Director of Public Safety Gerald Gregg, the suspect, Jay Derick Graham, 49, burglarized the rooms of 12-14 students in the early hours of Dec. 20. He is still in jail, and has pleaded not guilty to all three charges, according to Oregon Justice Department court records.
Students whose rooms were broken into said the burglar stole a wide variety of items, including at least one laptop, socks, vitamins, and makeup, among other things. The rooms were ransacked.
“Our room was basically trashed,” said sophomore Kimberly Dorr, whose third floor quad was burglarized. “This totally sucks and it was a big violation of my privacy and my roommates’ privacy.”
Upon returning to the dorms on Jan. 14, Dorr said she retrieved more than three large plastic bins full of her things from Public Safety where the recovered belongings were waiting. With the help of her mom, her three roommates and their moms, they washed all their clothing and bedding and sanitized everything, knowing that the burglar had rummaged through all of their stuff.
Although they did most of the cleaning and sanitizing the day before the start of the semester, Dorr said that she and her roommates have continued to find things that they missed in their original effort, and have to break from their routines to make sure everything is clean.
“We felt very unclean in a place that we call our home for the past semester,” Dorr said. “Anything you overlooked or missed, you think ‘this probably isn’t clean, I should disinfect it... it’s really disruptive.”
Gregg said that the suspect is believed to have been in the building for many hours through the night, and was taking small loads of items to a nearby alleyway, by filling large garbage bags and dragging them behind a bike. Although there were two officers on duty that night, it was not until morning that the damage was discovered. Public Safety Officers caught the suspect while he was riding a bike away from campus in the nearby neighborhood, and called Portland Police, who arrested him.
Dorr said she is grateful that Public Safety was able to catch the suspect and recover most of her and her roommates’ belongings, and that everyone was safe, especially the people who were in Fields and Schoenfeldt Hall the night of the burglary, including her hall director Gena McGowan.
“Our room was left unlocked, and it never got secured by the Fields Hall Staff — that’s also why he got access to the (connecting) room next to us. I love my hall staff and I know this whole situation can’t be blamed on anyone. There were just a bunch of unfortunate circumstances that all came together at one specific time... I’m really thankful that P-Safe was there to help and found him and recovered the stuff.”
Gregg said that although Lund Family Hall is the only dorm that has surveillance cameras near its doors, the possibility of adding cameras to other dorms has not been ruled out. Additionally, he said, more latches have been added to the front door of Fields and Schoenfeldt Hall to increase security.
It is not clear how the suspect entered the building, as Public Safety and Residence Life report that he broke in, and multiple students say the latches on the front door of Fields and Schoenfeldt may have already been broken.
Sam Cushing contributed to the reporting of this story.