The report of a break-in at Payson Florists Monday morning was just the catalyst police needed to delve into a burglary ring.
By the end of the day, police arrested Guadalupe John "Nick" Trinidad, Duane Earl Smith and Leeta Lynn Steward on charges of possession of stolen property.
The case began to unfold Monday morning when Robyn Lorentz called the police to report that her flower shop had been burglarized. Officer Steve Caros took Lorentz's report.
"We had several gift items stolen, bear collections, money and one of the green jackets I had bought for the girls that I was going to have embroidered," Lorentz said.
It was that jacket that helped Caros crack the case.
Later that day, Caros said, he was driving down McLane Road and noticed Trinidad walking along the side of the road, wearing a jacket similar to the one stolen.
"The officer detained Trinidad and verified that it was the same jacket," Payson Police Det. Chris Haack said. "When I arrived, he informed us that he would cooperate, so he was taken to the station where he was interviewed by Lt. (Don) Engler."
During the interview, Haack said, Trinidad admitted to the florist burglary, and three others: the Sept. 24 burglary of Crosswinds Restaurant, the Oct. 15 burglary of Payson Family Care, and the burglary of several vehicles at the Town of Payson impound yard a couple of weeks ago.
"We weren't even aware of that one," the detective said.
As detectives continued their investigation, they discovered stolen property at Smith's home on Saddle Lane.
"Because of that, we were able to obtain a search warrant for that residence," Haack said. The detective said that since Smith and Steward were alleged drug users and dealers, they were also looking for evidence of methamphetamine in the house.
After securing the residence for three days, officers uncovered a cache of stolen property that included six car stereos, items from the break-in at the doctors' office, scanners and police radios, automotive tools, and the remaining items stolen from the florist.
They also found drugs and 23 items of drug paraphernalia inside the home. "Pursuant to the state statute regarding possession of firearms while committing a drug offense, we seized 17 guns from Smith's house," Haack said.
Haack said formal complaints were filed against Trinidad for trafficking in stolen property, burglary, criminal damage and theft; against Smith for possession of dangerous drugs for sale, trafficking in stolen property, theft and possession of drug paraphernalia; and Steward for possession of dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of stolen property.
Officers think burglars were committing break-ins all over the Rim country and fencing the stolen goods from one person to another to buy meth.
"This is just a small part of the ongoing investigation into the burglary problem," Haack said. "We see meth as the main motivating factor out there."
As for Lorentz, she said she couldn't be more pleased with the Payson Police Department.
"I'm really impressed with their professionalism in handling this case," she said.