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One car, two cases lead to suspect

Man accused of stealing items from deputy’s SUV

Training, connections and a little bit of luck helped find a suspect in a vehicle prowling in west Spokane last week. It helped that the victim was an off-duty Spokane County sheriff’s deputy.

One week after off-duty Deputy Chan Erdman discovered a knife and sunglasses missing from his Dodge Durango, then stopped a man from stealing the SUV the next day, Deputy Charles Sciortino arrested two men in a silver 1995 Chevy Lumina on charges of methamphetamine possession.

When Sciortino discussed the case at the office the afternoon of the arrest, a colleague of Erdman’s realized the Lumina matched the description of the car in Erdman’s case, said Detective Dean Meyer. The case had been assigned to the Spokane Police Department because Erdman’s house is in city limits, but the Sheriff’s Office took the case from there.

Sonny R. Verastegui, 28, was arrested a week later.

“He was wearing Chan’s sunglasses,” Meyer said.

Verastegui is accused of stealing from Erdman’s car May 17, then returning the next day with the keys Erdman accidentally left in the ignition, Meyer said.

Erdman stopped the car thief as he pulled out of his driveway and chased him to the Lumina. The next day, he saw the same man driving the car and wrote down the license plate number.

Two days later, Sciortino pulled over a man for driving the Lumina with a broken brake light, and arrested the driver and passenger on meth possession.

Erdman’s stolen property wasn’t inside, but the driver pointed detectives to Verastegui, who he said had been driving the car during the prowling and attempted theft of Erdman’s car. The driver and Erdman identified Verastegui through a photo montage, Meyer said.

On May 31, Erdman discovered a paint sprayer and two chain saws missing from his garage.

They were recovered June 2 after a search of Verastegui’s home on North Cedar Street that yielded clues to their whereabouts. Verastegui had pawned the paint sprayer and sold the two chain saws to a neighbor, Meyer said.

Detectives obtained the search warrant after staking out the house for a few hours. Seeing Verastegui wearing the stolen sunglasses sealed the search authorization, Meyer said.

Verastegui, who did not return a call seeking comment, was booked into Spokane County Jail on charges of second-degree burglary, vehicle prowling, theft of a motor vehicle, second-degree theft, and three counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

He also faces a third-degree theft charge for the $75 he got from the pawn shop for the stolen property, Meyer said.

He’s free on bond.

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