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Police: DNA links suspect to Cottage Grove vehicle break-ins

Cottage Grove police said a string of reported thefts from vehicles and vehicle damages from April and July generally were in the neighborhood bordered by 80th Street, Keats Avenue, Hillside Trail and Jamaica Avenue. © 2011 Google

A Cottage Grove man likely faces criminal charges after police used DNA to allegedly link him to a string of vehicle break-ins.

Cottage Grove police said blood they collected as part of evidence in 13 reports of vehicle damage and theft from vehicles earlier this year matched that of Ryan P. Aasand, 20, the suspect in the cases.

Aasand was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of first-degree felony damage to property and theft. He was booked into Washington County jail and prosecutors were reviewing the case Thursday for possible charges.

Officers responded to 13 reports of damage to vehicles and theft from vehicles on April 4 and July 1, mostly within a general area of the city, police detective Matt Foucault said. In each case, windows were smashed or tires were slashed and items were stolen from inside the vehicles. Some of the cases were reported at homes in the 8100 and 8200 block of Jergen Avenue, on 83rd Street near Jergen Avenue, in the 9200 block of Hillside Trail and along Jody and Johansen avenues.

Three victims were hit twice, once in April and again in July.

"That's a big headache and a lot of money" for the victims, Foucault said.

Aasand lives in the 8200 block of Jergen Avenue.

"He was doing this right in his own neighborhood, pretty much," said Pete Koerner, deputy director of public safety.

Police collected evidence from several of the incident locations, including drops of blood that were held for possible DNA comparison. Blood samples were collected in April and in July, and a beer can found near one of the damaged vehicles in July was swabbed for DNA evidence, Foucault said.

Police found a cellphone near one of the damaged vehicles and linked it to Aasand, Foucault said. Officers obtained a DNA sample from him, and with assistance from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, it was determined the samples of blood and DNA from the beer can matched the DNA sample Aasand provided, police said. Property damage from the 13 incidents totaled $2,979. The value of items stolen from the vehicles was estimated at $848.

Koerner applauded officers for a thorough investigation.

"When many of the victims called, I don't think they expected much more than a report for insurance," Koerner said in a statement. "I think they will be pleasantly surprised that a suspect was arrested."

Foucault said the case is a reminder to try to minimize an opportunity for theft by hiding or removing valuable possessions from a vehicle, locking the vehicle and being aware of the surroundings.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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