A Sonora man in custody at the Tuolumne County Jail and a transient Tuolumne County man incarcerated at Folsom State Prison will face new felony charges after being connected via DNA evidence to a spate of 2017 burglaries in the Strawberry and Twain Harte areas.
Sgt. Andrea Benson said the eight burglaries, which included locations on Old Strawberry Road and on Bumble Bee Road in Strawberry, and on Bluebird Hill Road and The Rock of Twain Harte restaurant on Fuller Road in Twain Harte, amounted to an estimated “thousands of dollars worth” of total items stolen.
In September 2017, Tuolumne County Sheriff’s deputies with the High Risk Supervision Team investigating the burglaries attempted to find a Sonora resident at his travel trailer on Andra Drive in Sonora for a probation search.
The suspect was not at the trailer at the time, but mail, checkbooks, check-making paper, check printing instructions, snow ski equipment, tools, electronics and other items related to the burglaries were found, a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office press release said.
A few weeks after the search of the travel trailer, deputies learned that the man shared a storage facility on Camage Avenue with a Tuolumne County-area transient man, Benson said.
On Sept. 28, 2017, a search conducted of the storage unit turned up additional items that had been reported stolen, Benson said.
That same day, Michael Valentine, 26, of Sonora, the resident of the travel trailer on Andra Avenue, was arrested with another Sonora man after robbing a man at gunpoint near the entrance to Columbia College.
About 5:40 a.m. that morning, a woman on the 11000 block of Columbia Village Drive said her husband had been robbed of his wallet and $200 by two men wearing all black who fled in a black-and-purple Honda with purple rims.
Valentine and Gabriel Uribe, 22, were detained by Sonora Police officers on Greenley Road until deputies arrived to take them into custody.
Both men were booked into the Tuolumne County Jail on charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime, with Valentine incurring additional charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon with a prior, possession of a controlled substance for sale, violation of probation and three outstanding warrants.
The man who shared the storage facility, Travis Ashlock, 28, had been arrested by the California Highway Patrol on Aug. 29, 2017, at the Twin Pines Mobile Home Park in Jamestown for felony reckless driving to evade an officer.
DNA evidence taken from the scene of the crimes was used to match Valentine and Ashlock to the burglaries, Benson said.
The DNA was processed by the Department of Justice, the press release stated, and both men will face additional charges related to the crime spree.
Valentine is in custody at the Tuolumne County Jail, and Ashlock is in custody at Folsom State Prison.