Suspect arrested after burglaries at evacuated homes in Cascadel Woods

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A 19-year-old North Fork man has been arrested for possessing stolen property. (KFSN)

"You pray that it's someone out of Fresno. When you find out it's someone from your own backyard, it's pretty bad," said burglary victim Jeremy Kern.
A 19-year-old North Fork man has been arrested for possessing stolen property. Now, neighbors near the Willow Fire believe he stole the items from evacuated houses.

Hundreds of families were forced out of their homes during the height of the Willow Fire last week, and at least five houses were burglarized during the evacuation. The fire burned 5,700 acres and is now 95 percent contained.

As firefighting efforts come to an end with firefighters packing up the last of their equipment, an investigation begins up at Cascadel Woods.

Five-year-old Madison pointed to where her piggy bank used to sit, until it was stolen when burglars ransacked her home sometime last week.

"They were terrified, and last night was the first night my girls were able to sleep without waking up in the middle of the night and coming in and telling me and my wife the bad men were going to break in," said her father Jeremy Kern.

Kern said that's only because Alexander Matthew James, 19, was arrested Thursday. Cascadel Woods is a small community and neighbors say James' family lives minutes away from the burglarized homes.

"What's really bad about all this is we used to give this kid rides home when it was raining from the bus stop. He's friends with my oldest daughter," said Kern.

Families in the area say they've been scanning Craigslist and Facebook posts for their stolen property. Just before James was arrested, Kern said he took a screenshot of a Facebook post written by the suspect.

"When we were able to get onto the site, we found out that it was my entire PlayStation system that had been stolen out of the house, down to every detail including the HDMI cable that was unplugged out of the TV," said Kern.

James was cited with a misdemeanor for possessing stolen property.

"The investigation is still very much ongoing, and we do expect more arrests before we're done," said Lt. Bill Ward of the Madera County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators said they still haven't identified who burglarized the five homes, but Kern said he's convinced James is somehow involved.

"I don't wish any ill will toward any of them. Stay the hell away from my house," said Kern.

While some of the stolen property has been recovered, homeowners said they haven't yet been reunited with the items as the investigation is still ongoing.
Related Topics:
crimetrackercrimeburglarytheftarrestfirewildfireforest fireevacuationmadera countyBass LakeNorth Fork
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