Randy Lee Shoopman Jr., 33, was charged with 11 counts of second-degree burglary after a sample of his DNA matched that taken from expectorant left behind at the scene of several burglaries in Oklahoma, said officer Brad Robertson, a spokesman for the Tahlequah police department.
Shoopman was taken into custody Friday in Merced, Calif., on an unrelated stolen property charge, Robertson said.
Investigators also said Shoopman may be involved in break-ins at businesses across eastern Oklahoma and in Missouri.
Stilwell police detective Chad Smith said he was investigating the burglary of an insurance company in September when he noticed a tobacco stain on papers in the ransacked office.
"None of the ladies that worked there chewed tobacco," Smith said. "You could tell that the stains were from the suspect."
Smith said he sent a sample of the spit to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for testing. Detectives in Tahlequah who were investigating Shoopman as a possible suspect in a string of burglaries obtained a warrant to get a DNA sample from him.
The sample linked him to at least five burglaries in which the suspect also left behind tobacco spit, Robertson said. Shoopman was released on bail before the DNA match was obtained.
The evidence helps build a strong case for prosecutors, said Shannon Otteson, assistant district attorney in Adair County.
"Eyewitness testimony is unreliable at best. Even video tape surveillance is sometimes grainy. But this is pretty good," Otteson said. "Through this guy's bad habit, we could possibly solve several different burglaries."
Oklahoma officials hoped to have Shoopman extradited from California soon to face charges, said Otteson.
A telephone message left Wednesday with Shoopman's attorney in Muskogee was not immediately returned.
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