One of the men suspected of stealing more than $1 million in historic gold nuggets from the Siskiyou County Courthouse last year pled guilty to the charge Thursday afternoon.
DNA found inside a sock worn on the hand of one of the burglars in the Feb. 1 break-in matches that of suspect Scott Wayne Bailey, age 51 of El Sobrante, said Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus.
Bailey pled guilty to second degree burglary with an enhancement for a loss exceeding $200,000, Andrus said. The maximum sentence for the crime is five years in Siskiyou County Jail. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 12.
A second suspect, David Dean Johnson, age 49 of El Cerrito, turned himself in to authorities April 1 but pled not guilty. A trial date for Johnson was scheduled to be set today, said Andrus. It is expected that the trial will not begin until November, at the earliest, he said.
The men, who both live in the east San Francisco Bay Area, are suspected of breaking into the Siskiyou County Courthouse in the early morning hours of Feb. 1 through an open bathroom window and smashing into a heavy case in the lobby which displayed historic Siskiyou County gold. Subsequent appraisals estimated the loss at $1.2 million, said Andrus.
The two suspects can be seen on surveillance video wearing all black, with black masks covering their faces. They were not immediately identified.
Through what Andrus refers to as "dogged investigation" by the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department and allied agencies, Johnson and Bailey were identified as suspects. On March 25, Andrus charged both men with the courthouse burglary and a warrant was issued for their arrest.
When Johnson turned himself in to Siskiyou County Sheriff's Detectives on April 1, his bail was set at $1 million.
Bailey's bail was also set at $1 million after he was arrested in San Pablo on Aug. 1 and arraigned in Siskiyou County Court on Aug. 6, Andrus said.
While in custody, samples of Bailey's DNA were obtained and delivered to the Department of Justice, Redding Criminalistics Laboratory for comparison to a DNA profile extracted from socks recovered outside the courthouse after the burglary, said Andrus.
"The crime lab reported that the DNA profile found inside one of the socks is the same as the DNA profile for Scott Bailey... the same report notes that this DNA profile is estimated to occur, at random among unrelated individuals, in approximately one in 120 quintillion caucasians," said Andrus.
When Bailey appeared in court on Aug. 15, "no plea bargain was in the offering," said Andrus. "The only offer was to plead 'open,' meaning with no promises. It is our intention to seek the maximum sentence for those involved in this brazen offense."
Under Governor Jerry Brown's AB 109 realignment, second degree burglary does not qualify Bailey for a state prison commitment, Andrus said.
"This quick plea reflects the strength of the case against Mr. Bailey," Andrus said. "Statistically he was the only person who has ever lived, or likely will ever live on earth who was the source of the DNA identified from this particular evidence left at the scene. We are most interested now in recovering any of the property belonging to the citizens of Siskiyou County and seeing that justice is done... Mr. Bailey has taken responsibility for his part in the crime. Now he must take responsibility for making the citizens of Siskiyou County whole again."
During Johnson's preliminary hearing in a Siskiyou County courtroom in April, Detective Yves Pike testified that DNA evidence collected from a bottle of water thought to have been consumed by one of the gold thieves matches Johnson's.
There remains a $50,000 reward for the identification, arrest and conviction of any individuals involved in this case, said Andrus. The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information can call the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Major Crimes Unit at (530) 841-8354 or dispatch at (530) 859-2900.