A crushed water bottle in a Tampa jewelry store and a burglary tool left in a Los Angeles home helped connect a $3 million bay area burglary to a similar crime in a Los Angeles property owned by actors Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, according to law enforcement officials.
When Tampa police began investigating the April 27 burglary at Marcelo’s Fine Jewelry, employees were quick to note that water bottles left on the counter weren’t there when the store had closed.
The night before, the store manager locked up and turned on the alarm. Sometime that evening, police said, someone cut power to the building, pried open the front door to get inside, then cut through a metal door to get to a room with four safes and used a torch to pry one of them open.
They took more than $3 million in gold and jewelry, but left the water bottles behind.
One crushed bottle was collected at the scene, becoming critical evidence in the case, according to Tampa police spokesperson Eddy Durkin.
Durkin said DNA from the bottle matched a high-profile February 2019 celebrity burglary in Los Angeles. DNA from a tool recovered in the Los Angeles crime matched the DNA from the bottle, but there was no name attached.
Months later, Marcelo Romero, 33, was arrested in Ventura County, Calif. for crimes similar to the Los Angeles and Tampa cases. A search of his home recovered items stolen from homes in Ventura, along with an acetylene torch consistent with one used to cut safes, Durkin said.
Durkin said Tampa police Det. Sue Harmison and counterparts at the LAPD got a search warrant for a DNA swab from Romero. The results led them back to the Marcelo’s robbery, and possibly cases across the globe. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation in Los Angeles said Romero burglarized a property owned by Hawn and Russell.
“The DNA comparison between Romero’s DNA swab and the DNA recovered from the water bottle in Tampa showed the DNA was 700 billion times more likely to be from Marcelo Romero than from any other unrelated individual,” Durkin said in a news release. “Detectives from agencies across the nation, and internationally, are reviewing unsolved burglaries to determine if Romero was involved.”
Romero is currently in the Ventura County jail, where he faces charges of residential burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime, resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer, and possession of stolen property. He’s now facing additional charges in Tampa for burglary of an unoccupied structure and grand theft of $100,000 or more.
He’s being held in lieu of $1.1 million bail.
Romero is not connected to Marcelo’s Fine Jewelry. The store was founded in Tampa in 2008 by Marcelo Suarez.
Times staff writer Mark Puente contributed to this report.