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Crime & Courts

Facebook helps DeKalb police catch burglary suspect

DeKALB – When Israel Valenzuela-Piedra saw an incriminating photo of himself carrying items from Wal-Mart on DeKalb police’s Facebook page, he decided to turn himself in, authorities said.

Valenzuela-Piedra, 23, of the 2400 block of Lilac Lane, Sycamore, is accused of breaking into a DeKalb home about 1 a.m. Monday and stealing a wallet, computer and Chicago Bears helmet signed by Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, according to court records.

Police said he used a credit card stolen from the home at Wal-Mart, 2300 Sycamore Road, DeKalb, and Hy-Vee, 2700 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore. Valenzuela-Piedra signed the card reader using the victim’s name when he bought the items, court records show.

This marked one of the first times DeKalb police were able to arrest a suspect from a photograph posted to its Facebook account, said Penny Meier, DeKalb police administrative assistant.

“It’s the citizens that probably solved this for us with their quick response,” Meier said. “We thank them.”

Police received multiple phone calls early Monday about a couple of residential burglaries and between eight and 10 car burglaries on the south side of DeKalb, said DeKalb police Lt. Bob Redel. During the investigation, police found video surveillance of the suspect when he used the credit card at Wal-Mart, Redel said.

Police put a post on Facebook about 5 p.m. Monday asking people to identify the suspect. Within an hour, one woman identified the man as Israel Valenzuela. He turned himself in later that night.

Police have used descriptions or sketches to ask people to identify suspects on Facebook, Meier said. However, getting a photo with clear resolution is rare, she said.

The Facebook request also helped police gain between 40 and 50 more “likes,” Meier said.

As for Valenzuela-Piedra, he posted $5,000 bail Tuesday to be released from jail while his charges of residential burglary and forgery are pending. If convicted of residential burglary, the more serious charge, he could face probation or between four and 15 years in prison. Valenzuela-Piedra is due in court July 29.

However, additional charges could be filed against him depending on if authorities are able to find more items he possibly stole, Redel said. Anyone who recently purchased an item from Valenzuela-Piedra is asked to call the DeKalb Police Department at 815-748-8400.

“It was great it worked out,” Redel said. “That’s got to be one of fastest responses we’ve had.”

To help

Anyone who recently purchased an item from Israel Valenzuela-Piedra is asked to call the DeKalb Police Department at 815-748-8400 or DeKalb County Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272.

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