‘I was rocked and so was my community’: After a spate of home burglaries, Balboa Island residents say their sense of security has been shaken
One Balboa Island resident’s neighbors want to see him behind bars.
Newport Beach residents who were victims of a string of home burglaries appeared before an Orange County Superior Court judge this week to testify to the material and emotional effects of the crimes that hit the small island community and some residents of Corona del Mar last year.
For the record:
10:00 AM, May. 23, 2019The original version of this article misspelled Vicki Stump’s last name as Stunk.
The occasion was a hearing in the case against Quinn Kasbar, 19, who faces 29 felony and three misdemeanor counts, including burglary and attempted burglary. Kasbar pleaded not guilty April 23 to the latest in a series of amended charges, according to the county district attorney’s office. He pleaded not guilty to initial charges Dec. 4.
The burglaries Kasbar is accused of occurred between May and December, court documents show. Most were committed in the area around Balboa Island, where the defendant lives and grew up.
For many residents who gave victim impact statements in court Monday, the crimes hit hard materially and financially. For some, they took an even greater emotional and psychological toll.
“I was rocked and so was my community,” said Corona del Mar resident Claudia Schmutzler.
“He took my little pet tortoise, a tortoise I’d had for 10 years,” Schmutzler said. ”He takes whatever he wants like it’s his God-given right. He’s damn good at it and he’ll do it again.”
She said an animal-control officer eventually recovered the tortoise.
Schmutzler, 58, sarcastically described the defendant as an “entrepreneur spirit.”
“He was not just a kid stealing hubcaps,” she said. “He delights in this. I think the best possible answer is to give him the stiffest sentence possible.”
Kasbar’s attorney, Brian Gurwitz, declined to comment about Monday’s proceedings.
Schmutzler, as did others who spoke, said she has bought a guard dog and other security measures for her home. She is asking the court to consider those costs in any future restitution order.
Other residents recounted the loss of jewelry and family heirlooms that held sentimental value.
One man said he had worn his wedding ring every day for 37 years until it was stolen after he happened to leave it at home. It was not among evidence collected by police.
A woman said she lost her mother-in-law’s wedding ring, which she had been keeping to give to her daughter.
Balboa Island resident Vicki Stump said she and her husband, Bruce, locked up their home before going to visit family, but five days later, a friend who was checking on their house called to say their safe had been pried from the closet of the master bedroom.
The burglar entered from the third-floor deck, Stump said. The skylight was shattered and the deck’s door damaged, she said.
“I took reasonable precaution to secure the home before I left,” Stump said. “This was not a burglary of opportunity.”
For a resident who gave her name only as Lyssa G., living on Balboa Island “was a dream,” she said. But soon after she moved to Newport Beach, her home was broken into.
The burglary brought on months of anguish and strained her relationship with people around her, she said. She initially suspected the burglar might be one of her friends.
“It was horrible for a long time, and I just didn’t feel the same way about the … house that I had just bought,” she said, adding that she no longer feels comfortable leaving doors open — part of the appeal of living by the ocean.
Another Balboa Island family took a hit to its financial future.
Tammy R. said “a very large amount of cash” was stolen from her home safe after it was forced open.
She said the money was intended to pay for her child’s college education and contribute to retirement for her and her husband.
Meanwhile, she said, Kasbar, who is out of custody on $550,000 bail, “parades” around Balboa Island.
“He is thumbing his nose at us every day that he is not behind bars,” she said.
In response to claims that Kasbar has violated terms of his release, which include restricting where he can go on Balboa Island, Judge Karen Robinson reminded him of the potential consequences if the allegations are substantiated.
“Make no mistake, this court will take you into custody and may be compelled to set no bail,” Robinson said.
Kasbar is scheduled back in court June 25.
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