By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – A Centralia College student and his 19-year-old girlfriend were charged today in connection with a string of fast food establishment burglaries, two of which the thieves broke in by cutting a hole through the roof.
Alexis Cardenas, 26, of Centralia, came to the attention of local police after he was caught red-handed breaking in to the Taco Bell in Olympia the other night, according to Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.
In one case, the intruders had the combination to the safe, Halstead said.
His alleged accomplice, Morelia V. Ayala Garcia, 19, also of Centralia, was a manager at the McDonalds in Centralia, according to authorities. She no longer works there, police said.
Both were arrested on Wednesday and held in the Lewis County Jail until charges were filed today in Lewis County Superior Court.
In one case, about $2,800 was stolen, in another it was $5,700, according to Halstead. He wasn’t certain this afternoon of the amount in the third case. The incidents all happened in the late spring of 2015 in Centralia.
Arby’s on the 1200 block of Belmont Avenue was hit on April 14, 2015. In that case, some broke out a window to get inside, according to charging documents.
Thieves struck at McDonalds on the 1200 block of Lum Road on May 28, 2015. Then they struck again at the Centralia Wendy’s on the 800 block of Harrison Avenue on June 13, 2015. In both cases they got inside by by cutting a hole in the roof, according to police.
Police are looking for four other suspects they believe were involved.
Cardenas is charged with three counts of second-degree burglary and three counts of first-degree malicious mischief.
Halstead told a judge this afternoon that even though Cardenas was incarcerated when the McDonalds break-in occurred, they believe he directed it.
Ayala Garcia is charged in only the McDonalds case.
Halstead said the crimes involved a high degree of sophistication. He asked that Cardenas be held on $300,000 bail, out of concern about interfering with the administration of justice by trying to contact witnesses.
While he was released on $20,000 bail in Thurston County after the Olympia burglary, Halstead said that amount was “a joke.”
Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller argued for a lesser amount, noting Cardenas is a student at Centralia College, employed at a local auto dealership and resides in Centralia. Lewis County Superior Court Judge Joely O’Rourke said she considered him a very serious threat to community safety and ordered the high bail.
Halstead asked that Ayala Garcia be held on $25,000 bail, noting her situation was different in that she allegedly participated only in one burglary and had nothing more than a speeding ticket on her record. He also said Ayala Garcia didn’t appear to be a citizen, but may have a work permit.
Tiller noted to the judge Ayala Garcia has a 7-month-old baby, works as an insurance agent, had family in the courtroom and wasn’t a flight risk. O’Rourke set her bail at $25,000, noting she was not concerned about Ayala Garcia returning to court as ordered.
Halstead asked the judge to sign an order allowing DNA samples to be taken from the suspects.
The Olympia Police Department Tweeted on Monday they caught a burglar during the night trying to break in to a safe, noting an alarm, the sounds of a grinder being used and foot prints in the snow which led to a rooftop ladder and their suspect at Taco Bell.
Their arraignments are set for next Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.