Serial burglar John Irvine Jr.’s discarded screwdriver cost him another six years in prison.
Judge Stephen Herrick handed the 23-year-old former Ballston Spa resident the new sentence during Wednesday in Albany County Court. Irvine, who is now serving up to eight years at Livingston State Prison in the Finger Lakes Region, admitted to one count of attempted burglary earlier this year.
Irvine admitted he burglarized a Mills Road residence in Colonie two years ago. He acknowledged he entered the unoccupied home during the early evening, ransacked the residence and made off with a number of personal effects, including jewelry.
But what Irvine failed to remove from the home during the November 2010 burglary was the screwdriver he used to jimmy its door. Investigators recovered the tool and were able to extract a DNA sample, which was then sent for comparison to the state database.
Meanwhile, Irvine’s luck as a burglar was about to run out. He was rifling through the second-floor bedroom of a Ballston Spa home when the resident walked in the front door. Irvine fled past the 62-year-old woman, but she pursued him down the street. The woman didn’t catch up with him, but was able to gather enough of a description to allow police to track him down.
His arrest helped authorities unravel a string of more than 60 unsolved burglaries in a half-dozen counties around the Capital Region. Also arrested were Andrew Baril, Micah Henzel and Elizabeth Thomas, who helped Irvine break into homes to steal small items that could be pawned for money to purchase drugs.
Investigators later described the burglaries as random. The trio would wait until they knew a house was empty and then break in through a door or window.
Irvine wended his way through the court system in several different counties until admitting to felony burglary charges in Montgomery County in April 2011. As part of his plea, he was required to submit a DNA sample to the state database.
That submission landed Irvine under arrest for the Colonie burglary in November 2011, roughly a year after it happened. He was formally charged and admitted to the burglary in June.
Ceclia Logue, a spokeswoman for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, said matching DNA is a slow process, but ultimately, she said, the database helps secure convictions in crimes that might have otherwise gone unsolved.
“It just takes a little bit of time,” she said.
Irvine’s latest conviction will mean he’ll spend at least the next 12 years behind bars. Baril, his co-defendant, is now serving up to 81⁄2 years in prison after being convicted on two counts of burglary in Saratoga County last year.
Thomas and Henzel each pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary charges in Saratoga County and were sentenced to six months in the Saratoga County Jail followed by five years of probation. Both have since been released from jail.
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