Career criminal suspected in crime spree

February 22, 2008 6:32:38 PM PST
A suspected burglar has made a shocking admission. He told investigators he's behind so many home break-ins in northwest Harris County, he can't remember them all. The break-ins happened in several subdivisions, all of them in the Champions Forest and Lakewood Forest areas of the county.

Of all the things a thief could steal, Brenda Shell never imagined it would be her safe, weighing at least 500 pounds, bolted to a concrete slab.

She said, "I actually left $30,000 - $40,000 worth of jewelry in two jewelry boxes so they would have comfort food if we were ever hit, thinking that my safe was safe."

It was a safe full of precious family keepsakes.

Shell said, "Thirty to 60 years' worth of stuff is in that safe, that we can't replace."

Investigators with the Harris County Precinct four constable's office believe 49-year-old Billy Duggan - a career criminal - had help with the heist.

Constable Ron Hickman said, "He would call friends and they would bring dollies and equipment. They would either cut the safe open or break the safe loose from the ground."

Authorities have connected Duggan to a string of at least 34 unsolved burglaries in mostly affluent neighborhoods in northwest Harris County. Investigators say he'd pick his target then go to a library in Tomball where he used a book to cross reference an address.

"He would identify the name and phone number," said Hickman. "We actually found his cell phone number on the caller IDs in the homes."

Investigators say Duggan confessed to so many burglaries, he can't remember them all. Brenda Shell calls his arrest bittersweet.

She said, "It's great for my neighbors, now he can't target them. But I would love to get my stuff back."

Duggan reportedly sold a lot of the goods to high-end buyers who then resold it, often at flea markets. Some of those buyers are outside the country. Authorities have recovered about $150,000 worth of stolen merchandise.

Investigators are looking at additional suspects.

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