A teenager has confessed to breaking into 18 homes in Columbia neighborhoods since summer, police said Tuesday.
Donquiese Green, 16, is being charged as a adult because the offenses carry at least 15-year prison terms and Green already was on probation for a similar crime as a juvenile, prosecutors said.
"He is legally considered an adult due to the nature of the offenses," 5th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Dolly Garfield said.
So far, Green is charged with two counts of second-degree burglary and one of first-degree burglary in connection with break-ins on Hillcrest and Kiawah avenues and Grand Court, police said. A conviction of first-degree burglary carries up to life in prison.
A list of the 18 homes was not available Tuesday afternoon, police spokesman Brick Lewis said. Most of the burglaries happened downtown and several miles south and north of downtown.
Green was in the Richland County jail's juvenile wing Tuesday, Lewis said.
Detectives think Green acted alone, Lewis said, but they continue to look into the case. Investigators want to determine whether more break-ins occurred and whether others were involved, including people to whom Green sold the loot, mostly electronics - gaming systems and televisions - was sold to.
"There's always the possibility of more," he said, although nothing specific has been determined.
Green was arrested Dec. 6 when someone called 911 to say she saw a suspect near an open rear window of a house on the 700 block of Hillcrest, Lewis said. Hillcrest, where Green lived with family, is off Monticello Road in north Columbia.
The suspect ran when police arrived, but was caught after a foot chase, according to police.
His arrest "makes everybody feel a little bit safer," city Councilman Daniel Rickenmann said.
Green began disclosing the other break-ins as detectives questioned him, Lewis said. Over time, the total ran to 18.
Police found evidence that linked Green to a Nov. 25 night-time burglary at a home in the 2100 block of Kiawah Avenue, Lewis said. Kiawah is off Rosewood Drive near A.C. Moore Elementary. A break-in after dark is a first-degree crime under the law.
The third burglary for which Green is charged occurred at a home on Grand Court, Lewis said. Grand Court is between North Main Street and S.C. 277.
It took police more than two weeks to disclose the arrest because of the volume of burglaries, Lewis said. "Sometimes it does take longer."
He said Green has a criminal history but would not discuss it.
Garfield said Green was on probation for a burglary charge committed as a juvenile.
She said 16-year-olds are charged as adults for crimes as serious as first- and second-degree burglaries "almost every week."
The law does not allow discretion for 16-year-olds if the charge carries at least a 15-year penalty, Garfield said.
Police Chief Tandy Carter urged residents to remain "nosy neighbors," especially during the holiday season when families leave home to travel and property crimes tend to spike.
Staff writer Tim Flach contributed. Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.