By David McCabe
Michael C. Morales ’14, of Miami, Fla., was arrested Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011 by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and charged with one count of felony burglary in the string of robberies that struck the first-year quad in the early hours of Saturday, Jan. 22.
On Tuesday, Morales’ bond was set at $2,500, according to Knox County Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer L. Springer, who confirmed his name.
The spree took place, according to Director of Campus Safety Robert Hooper, between midnight and 6:30 a.m., as Morales allegedly worked his way through the quad, entering rooms he found to be unlocked. He took cash and property, officials allege. Several students found that cash had been taken directly out of their wallets. The areas hit hardest were the men’s side of the second floor of Norton Hall and the first floor of Gund Hall.
“I was just sleeping and then I heard something fall – I think it was coins falling out onto the desk – and I woke up, and I guess he saw that I woke up and then ran out of the room,” said Ali Stamatoiu ’14, a Norton resident, who, in her half-awake state, assumed it was her roommate.
Sometime after 6:00 a.m., a student in the Gund Residence Hall called Campus Safety claiming he had seen someone in his room.
Officers located Morales in order to question him about the call, but felt they had no reason to detain him.
“At that point we weren’t accusing anybody; he was just a person we thought might be able to help us figure it out,” Hooper said.
Shortly thereafter, Morales returned to Gund, following a resident inside. While his exact motives remain unclear, he proceeded to knock on residents’ doors, rousing many of them sometime after 7:00 a.m.
This conduct led to another call to Campus Safety, and Morales was intercepted by an officer around 7:45 a.m. on the first floor of Gund Hall. He was then taken in for questioning by Safety officials and a deputy from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. According to Safety, during the course of this questioning, a suspect confessed to the burglary that led to the 6:35 a.m. call. Springer, the prosecutor, confirmed Morales had confessed.
By 9:30 a.m., quad residents had received an email from Bryan Conover, the assistant director of residential life assigned to the first-year quad, notifying them of the reported unauthorized entries and theft.
By Saturday night, Morales had cleaned out his room in McBride Hall and was placed in a location elsewhere on campus. He was arrested the next morning.
The Office of Campus Safety will not comment on Morales’ prior record, as it is protected by the confidentiality he is afforded as a student of the College, and Morales was unreachable for comment.
Now students are left with the tough question of when, if ever, their stolen property will be returned to them. According to Conover, the amount of cash found by the Sheriff’s Office closely matched the amount of cash reported stolen. Additionally, he said, all property reported stolen so far has been located.
Hooper had one piece of advice for students who want to protect their belongings in the future: lock your doors.
“We’ve always had a problem with students locking their individual room doors, and I think now that the halls are locked, we may be getting more people who aren’t locking their individual doors – which of course made this all possible,” he said.
But for some, like Stamatiou, the incident struck a chord not as a result of missing property, but something else.
“Mainly I was just a little bit scared because he had been in there while I was sleeping, and that freaked me out the most. He didn’t really take too much from me – probably because I woke up – but it’s just eerie,” she said.
[starbox id=”david mccabe”]
Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.