Fairbanks Daily News-Miner opinion editor Tom Hewitt gives the Headline of the Week award to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Managing editor Roni Toldanes gets credit for it; he tells Romenesko readers that “I just thought it was quite accurate.” (My Facebook friends and subscribers like it.)
The headline only made sense after my interview with the suspect’s mom, minutes after she visited her son in jail. After the underwear bandit’s arrest, I had a phone interview with the suspect’s latest victim, who explained how investigators caught the suspect by connecting the polka dots.
The story requires a subscription, but Toldanes forwarded it for posting. It’s after the jump.
UNDERWEAR BANDIT CAUGHT, ADMITS BRIEF CRIME SPREE
Thanks to a 10-year-old Yorkie named Fezick, Kodiak panty drawers are safe again.
It took a flurry of miniature barks to help unmask Ryan Cornelio as the underwear bandit.
Cornelio, an 18-year-old graduate of Kodiak High School, admitted to his mother that he had been helping himself to a collection of women’s undergarments.
“He just told me right now, ‘I’m sorry mom. I don’t know why I did it. I’m not gonna do it anymore,’” Cornelio’s mother, Resie, said in a phone interview with the Kodiak Daily Mirror, moments after visiting her son in jail.
The panty-pilfering spree abruptly ended Monday morning when the Yorkshire Terrier owned by Joan Burnett, 46, began tearing up her eardrums with a staccato burst of barks, indicating the presence of another person in the house.
Burnett, a physical education teacher at Kodiak Christian School, said she was making a phone call when the barking started. Her husband, John, manager of GCI in Kodiak, was at the airport in Anchorage, preparing to board a flight that would take him and his daughter to Africa to visit relatives.
Burnett said she walked around the kitchen counter and saw a shadow moving in another bedroom 20 feet away.
“I quickly realized he was someone I didn’t know,” Burnett said.
Burnett yelled and Cornelio scampered away, but Burnett’s neighbor — who already noticed the suspicious man wearing black and walking toward Burnett’s driveway — was ready with her digital camera, snapping a photo of Cornelio’s Dodge pickup truck and its plate number.
Alaska State Troopers and wildlife officials immediately responded to the scene and linked the polka dots.
State troopers issued a brief news release, confirming that during the past three months, Cornelio had entered seven homes in the Kodiak area and attempted to enter three other residences in his bid to get more panties.
Sgt. Eric Olsen of the Alaska State Troopers said he could not confirm the number of women’s underwear found in Cornelio’s room as investigation is still ongoing. “The number is quite substantial,” he said.
“We are very confident we have the suspect in custody and we have the correct person in the thefts of underwear,” Olsen told the Daily Mirror.
Cornelio works at Blue Ocean as an “all-around” cannery employee, his mother said.
His mother, who also works at the cannery, wondered what went wrong, why she didn’t discover his collection of women’s underwear, and provided the right guidance before state troopers came knocking Monday.
Cornelio acknowledged her son is in big trouble. He is facing three initial counts of burglary in the first degree. And she is facing the potential shame of seeing her last name scattered on the pages of newspapers nationwide as the underwear bandit, one of the repercussions of his arrest.
“We feel he was just misguided,” she said. “He did not commit any other crimes. I just don’t know why. I can’t understand why he did it.”
Roni Toldanes is managing editor of the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227, ext. 622.