But the former Queen Anne resident apparently didn’t want to work very hard as an alleged serial burglar.
He didn’t have to, according to Sgt. Gary Nelson, of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), whose burglary squad solved the case with the help of crime analysis and a multi-departmental stakeout.
In 90 to 95 percent of the cases, Massie simply walked into the targeted homes through unlocked doors, Nelson said. While all the stolen luxury vehicles are difficult – if not impossible – to hotwire, Massie didn’t even have to try.
He snagged the keys for them in the burglarized homes, said Nelson. Burglar and car alarms were no problem, either. Most of them were turned off, Nelson said, adding that Massie himself mentioned the fact.
“Alarm systems are great, unless you don’t turn them on,” Nelson remembers Massie saying as the suspect was driven around Queen Anne to point out the homes he’d hit.
Massie was remarkably forthcoming during the drive, remembering what property was stolen from which home, Nelson said. Massie was also candid about how easy it had all been.
Massie, Nelson added, confessed to going into one home more than once. In another case, the victims didn’t even know Massie had been in their home. Their car was stolen, but they didn’t realize it was stolen using keys taken from the house until Massie pointed the place out for police, Nelson said.
In yet another case, Nelson added, Massie climbed into an unlocked second-story window from a hot tub at the home.
“People let their guard down,” Nelson said of most of the victims.
People letting their guard down isn’t that unusual, according to Heather McAuliffe, a crime-prevention coordinator with the Seattle Police Department (see sidebar on Page 8 for safety tips).
McAuliffe said Massie was at least crafty enough to target mostly homes that were for sale. That way, he wouldn’t look out of place as he cased the houses, she said.
That wasn’t the only approach in Massie’s M.O. While he was recently living in shelters and sometimes in the vehicles he allegedly stole, Massie lived in the Queen Anne neighborhood when he was a teen-ager and knew which homes to target, Nelson said.
Massie used “basically a crisscross pattern” on top of Queen Anne Hill in an area that stretched between the 1800 block to the south and the 2600 block to the north and between 12th Avenue West to the west and Third Avenue North to the east, Nelson said.
The times of the burglaries varied, though. Massie started by hitting the homes at the crack of dawn, moved to the evening hours and was pulling jobs in mid-morning when police arrested him around two months later, Nelson said.
“He’d really fallen into a ritualistic pattern.”
The pattern was Massie’s undoing – along with sloppiness. According to court documents, Massie’s fingerprints were found on, among other items, a bottle of juice he drank in one burglarized home.
Nelson credits “a conscientious patrol officer” for bagging items Massie had touched instead of dusting them for fingerprints on the spot, a procedure that is not always as accurate as an exam done in a lab setting.
The fingerprints were partials and did not have enough reference points to run through the computerized Automated Fingerprint Identification System, Nelson said.
But Gene Barrow, an in-house SPD fingerprint examiner, was able to match the prints to Massie the old-fashioned way: by eye. Massie’s was the second set of prints Barrow used in the comparison.
Police already had Massie’s fingerprints on file because he has a lengthy felony rap sheet and has spent a fair amount of time in prison, according to court documents. He was most recently released from jail last November.
Nelson initially thought a man recently arrested for serial burglaries in North Seattle was responsible for the Queen Anne crimes. Massie, however, had been spotted on Queen Anne during a suspicious-circumstances call, so Nelson said he had Barrow check those prints, too. They were a match, Nelson said.
Almost 30 officers from different divisions were assigned to stake out Massie’s territory mid-morning on March 5, he said.
Originally, the stakeout was to take place at night, but SPD crime analyst Christine Robin had clued into the fact that Massie was operating in the middle of the morning by then, Nelson said.
It turned out not everyone was needed. Massie was spotted by officers in the first two squad cars sent out that morning, Nelson said.
Massie – who is being held on $50,000 bail in the King County Jail – has already been arraigned on one felony count of burglary and one felony count of car theft, said Dan Donohoe, a spokesman from the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Ten more felony charges were filed last week, and Massie will be arraigned on those charges Monday, April 1, Donohoe said.
“I imagine we could be looking at (even more) additional charges,” he said, adding that Massie is facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Nelson is grateful the burglary and car-theft spree on Queen Anne Hill was solved so quickly.
“We don’t have many residential burglaries in the West Precinct,” he said, in comparison to the East, North and South precincts.
Nelson said all of the stolen vehicles, a brand-new Mercedes SUV among them, have been returned in good shape to their owners. Also recovered and returned were $30,000 worth of stolen items ranging from a flat-screen Sony TV “all the way down to an electric toothbrush,” Nelson said.