NEW PORT RICHEY — Two years ago today, Anton Hruby came home from work and found his home in ruins. His daughter had left the house to go to a college class at 1 p.m. He came home at 2 p.m.
Within that hour, someone pried off a garage window, climbed inside the house on Eclipse Court and ransacked it. All drawers and closets were opened. The burglar put the family's few-month-old Labrador puppy outside in the lanai.
"She was scared," Hruby said.
Papers and things were thrown on the floor. A bedroom door that had been locked was kicked down and shattered. A safe with $16,000 in cash to buy Hruby's daughter a car was missing. Two televisions were gone. Two computers. Two digital cameras. A video recorder. DVD players. PlayStation and games. Diamond tennis bracelet. Ruby ring. Diamond ring. Hunting knife. A 6,500-watt generator. Makeup. Even a Victoria's Secret bra.
Everything was gone.
Authorities had no suspects.
Two years pass.
Then Tampa police detectives searched a suspect's home in a gang-related burglary ring investigation. They found a digital camera with the photos wiped clean, said Doug Tobin, a spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
He said Tampa's forensic unit was able to recover the deleted photos. One showed a "for sale" sign in front of a house. They called the Realtor, who was able to put detectives in touch with the client — who turned out to be Hruby, the victim in the 2008 burglary in New Port Richey.
Tampa contacted Pasco detectives and gave them their list of suspects in their burglary ring.
Tobin said the Pasco agency ran the suspects' fingerprints against those in the 2008 case and found a match: Richard Lee Mack, a 25-year-old who spent nearly a year in prison for grand theft auto and aggravated fleeing and eluding law enforcement.
Mack lives in Tampa and was arrested Feb. 25 by Tampa officers on a Pasco warrant for the 2008 burglary. He was transferred to the Pasco County jail Wednesday.
This was an example of "good police work from multiple agencies," Tobin said.
Mack — whose aliases include Slick Rick, Slick Mack and Samuel Washington — is charged with burglary. He remained in custody Thursday in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Tobin said it appears as though the camera is Hruby's only property that has been found.
Everything else seems to have been sold long ago.
Hruby, 44, said Thursday that the burglary was an ordeal, but he's still so thankful that his daughter — who was 18 at the time — wasn't home when the burglar broke inside.
"I don't care about possessions," Hruby said. "Having her safe — that was the only thing I was thankful for."
Still, Hruby is happy a suspect has finally been arrested in the case.
"I hope justice is served," he said, "and maybe he learns something from this."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.