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AZ 'rock burglar' could get 200 years or more

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Robert Neese (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Robert Neese (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A man nicknamed the "rock burglar" who eluded police for more than 17 years faces 200 years of more in prison when he's sentenced later this month.

Robert Neese, 60, earned the nickname because he often used a rock to break into affluent homes in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills and Cave Creek.

Neese pleaded guilty Tuesday in the second of two criminal cases brought against him. He was previously convicted in a separate case on eight counts of burglary and seven counts of theft last April.

Neese was captured after leaving behind important clues while burglarizing a home in Fountain Hills in April 2011 and taking more than $12,000 in property, the Maricopa County Attorneys Office said. 

During their investigation, detectives with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office were able to recover fingerprint evidence from items within the home that had been moved from the position the homeowner had left them in. Detectives were also able to obtain impressions of footprints left on the highly polished floors of the residence.

Neese was arrested for possession of burglary tools during an unrelated burglary apprehension detail on May 15, 2011.

Police obtained a court order allowing them to collect samples of Neese's DNA and the shoes he was wearing. MCSO Crime Lab analysts discovered a forensic match between the lifted shoeprints from the Fountain Hills crime scene and the size, shape and outsole design of the shoes Neese was wearing when he was arrested.

The shoes also contained multiple accidental identifying characteristics that matched the crime scene shoeprints, the county attorney's office said. Analysis of the fingerprint evidence obtained from the crime scene revealed a match with prints obtained from Steven Ray Bolton during a previous arrest for disorderly conduct and DUI.

The DNA samples obtained from Neese were linked to eight open burglary cases that occurred in Scottsdale and Carefree dating as far back as 1999.

In March, 2005, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office obtained a 15-count "John Doe" indictment based on DNA evidence collected at several of the crime scenes. This evidence was used to positively identify Neese as the "John Doe" defendant named in the indictment.

Neese was tried and convicted on all counts in April 2013. 

Neese pled guilty Tuesday to one count of burglary and one count of possession of burglary tools stemming from his May 2011 arrest.

One thing that does not seem to fit in with Neese's high-end heists is his modest home in Mayer. An investigator close to the case told CBS 5 News Neese was not working and likely living off the money being made from the break-ins. Even for a man accused of getting away with millions in loot, detectives think after he fenced the goods, he only got 10 cents on the dollar.

"We now look forward to the imposition of an appropriate sentence that will hold this defendant accountable for the extensive harm he has caused," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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