Junior Greg Lauritano said he had felt violated and angry on the Saturday after Thanksgiving break last semester. A roommate told him that their apartment had been broken into, and their flat-screen television was gone.
"Originally I thought it was a student," Lauritano said, "because my initial reaction was someone would know that this TV was here if they came in."
The person behind this apartment theft, and a string of other burglaries that occurred on campus last semester, is neither a student nor an expert thief. He did not use tools of any sort to get into people's apartments or cars.
Instead of any advanced techniques, all Anthony Thompson Jr. did was tap on door handles to find the unlocked ones. When Thompson came across an unlocked room, he would go in and take valuables, such as laptops, iPods and wallets.
"If there was somebody there [in the room], he'd just excuse himself, [saying] 'Oh, I'm lost. I'm sorry,'" university police officer Tim Meacham said. "And he'd leave, and he'd just go to the next place and try another room."
Lauritano said his apartment door's lock would sometimes become unlocked if shaken, so he had planned to have it replaced.
Thompson lived across the Huguenot Bridge in the Huguenot Apartment Complex and would drive over to campus on weekend nights. In order to get into the dorm buildings, he would wait outside and tell someone that he was waiting for a friend, but the friend had yet to come down. Then he would ask that person to let him into the dorm, Meacham said.
Meacham described Thompson, a 22-year-old male who is not affiliated with the school, as a good kid that got into a tough financial situation last October. It was in October that the burglaries started.
Only a few of the stolen items were in Thompson's apartment when police searched it, Meacham said, and all the rest had been sold on craigslist. Because of that, a majority of the stolen goods were not given back to their original owners, Meacham said.
Lauritano received his TV back from police last Monday. It had been almost two months, and he returned another that he had bought as a replacement.
From October until he was caught on Dec. 16, Thompson committed eight burglaries both here and at Virginia Commonwealth University. On those charges alone, he could be sentenced to 160 years of jail time.
A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24, and Meacham said that he expected a plea agreement to be reached before Thompson's trial. If Thompson were to get an extended sentence, it would impair his ability to pay reparations to the victims, Meacham said.
"I'm hoping that we come up with some type of resolution where he's held responsible for his behavior and at the same time, has the ability to pay back his victims," Meacham said.
According to the Virginia Department of Corrections website, Thompson is being held at Nottoway Correction Center in Burkeville. The site says that he is projected to be released on March 25, 2016, though he has yet to receive a sentence.
Lauritano said he would like to see Thompson do a lot of community service. "A little jail time I think is appropriate, but not too much," he said
Meacham said: "I don't think he's going to be a threat, I really don't. Unless he's gotten in with the wrong crowd and he's pulling the wool over our eyes, and I didn't find any indication of that in his room."
Besides locking doors when leaving a room, Meacham encouraged people to register the serial numbers of their valuables either with the school or sites such as LoJack, Mobile Me, Prey or any other service. That way it is easier for police to track the products if lost or stolen, and the owner is more likely to get it back, Meacham said.
Normally burglaries are hard to solve because of the lack of evidence or witnesses, Meacham said. This one was different because Thompson had been identified on campus by students who called the police and also by security footage when he used a stolen debit card from one of the rooms.
"A lot of things went right in this case," Meacham said.
In the future, Lauritano said he thought more security cameras should be installed outside of the UFA. "There's not a lot of security out here," he said. "Obviously this has happened a lot."