Prolific burglar gets 45 years

Prosecutors call him a career criminal. He's done time for burglaries and armed home invasions. Police said he's stolen millions in jewelry, weapons and cash from homes as far north as Santa Barbara to as far south as San Diego.

But it was skin cells on a drawer knob in a Newport Beach home and a discarded cigarette in San Diego that may have finally brought Paul Layton Keesling's career to an end.

Keesling, 51, was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison Friday in Orange County Superior Court for a 2007 burglary in Newport Beach.

He stole more than $200,000 in jewels and cash, which, combined with his previous convictions for violent offenses, made it his third strike, enhancing his sentence.

"I think that finally he won't be victimizing people in the community anymore," Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry Cleveland said. "His criminal history spans some 36 years and those include multiple residential burglaries and home invasions while armed. His only break from crime was when he was incarcerated."

Keesling is suspected of more than 20 burglaries in Southern California. He earned the nickname the "Dinnertime Bandit" for targeting homes between about 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., when families were out for dinner.

But in 2007, he uncharacteristically slipped up and left skin cells – the DNA evidence – on the knob of a drawer inside a walk-in closet in a Newport Beach home that linked him to the crime. Police put out a warrant for his arrest, but he was nowhere to be found.

In another lucky break, Keesling was stopped by police a month later in San Diego who wanted to give him a ticket for dropping a cigarette on the beach. Keesling initially lied about his identity, but he was soon found out and arrested.

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