Police say another rooftop burglar likely is at work in Medford

Police believe there could be additional rooftop burglars targeting Medford businesses.

Medford police Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said two recent business burglaries are not the work of Samuel Edward Smith Jr., who was arrested last week for his alleged part in a string of similar crimes that began Dec. 15.

Smith has been ruled out as the suspect in the burglaries of Reef Tech, an aquarium supply store on East Jackson Street, and the Westminster Presbyterian Church on Oakwood Drive.

"It's rare to have one rooftop burglar in town, let alone two or more," Budreau said.

Smith, who has a long criminal history including convictions for burglary and theft, is lodged in the Jackson County Jail on five counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of first-degree criminal mischief and one count of second-degree theft.

Investigators believe Smith busted into a Minute Market on Highland Drive, Rogue Valley Pet and Cost Cutters on East Barnett Road and a computer business on East Main Street. In each case, Smith gained access to the business through the roof.

Detectives initially suspected Smith was responsible for burglaries of Reef Tech and the church, which also were rooftop burglaries.

However, after further investigation, they no longer believe he is the sole rooftop burglar working in Medford.

"The Reef Tech and church could be the work of the same person, but we definitely know it's not Smith," Budreau said.

In the Reef Tech job, the suspect took $8,000 in live coral, several expensive aquarium lights and hundreds of dollars of exotic fish, including clown, angel and butterfly fish. Also stolen were valuable sea anemones, said Reef Tech owner Ray Therault.

He said the suspect busted through the roof in a storage area and used a ladder to haul out buckets of coral and fish.

"All of this stuff had to go into a tank ASAP otherwise it would die," Therault said. "The person had to know what they were doing by targeting these particular things."

Therault and police said that the person who broke into Reef Tech wasn't looking to sell fish and live coral on the streets.

"It was a calculated crime," Therault said. "They knew what they were doing. I think it might be a customer who has been in here a lot. I probably have seen the person before."

Meanwhile, detectives are still searching for items stolen by Smith during his burglary spree.

"Smith is not being cooperative in this case and we are having trouble locating some things to return to the owners," Budreau said. "We believe some of it was sold for drug money."

None of the businesses targeted in the rash of burglaries had alarm system on the roofs.

Therault said he has remedied that for Reef Tech.

"We now have an alarm and cameras," he said.

Anyone with information on the Reef Tech and church burglaries is asked to call Medford police Detective Bill Ford at 541-774-2236.

— Chris Conrad

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