Cigarette butt DNA helps solve burglary

- It was a nice August afternoon at the beach two years ago, until the day turned sour for Toby Breder and his wife.

"It was disappointing, disheartening and something we did not expect on Anna Maria," Breder said of learning his vehicle was burglarized.

Breder and his wife had parked their minivan at 33rd Street in Holmes Beach. When they made their way back to their vehicle, they found her purse, his briefcase, and several personal items -- including credit cards -- had been taken, but they also found something out of the ordinary.

They found a cigarette butt on the floorboard.

"My wife had the very good idea to say, 'Don't throw that cigarette butt away. They might use it for DNA testing,'" Breder recalled.

The idea seemed a little off-the-wall, but it turned out to be the smoking gun they needed.

"I thought she was crazy. Why would they do that for a petit theft or burglary?" Breder asked.

They turned the cigarette over to the Holmes Beach Police Department. Meanwhile, as they went to work canceling their credit cards, they discovered someone was already using them at Walmart and Auto Zone.

"We were able to follow up on the charges and get video of the potential suspect," said Det. Sgt. Brian Hall.

Detective Hall recognized the suspect as island resident Matthew Johnson, but he still needed solid evidence, which he got from the FDLE crime lab after it tested the DNA on the cigarette butt. The DNA was a match to Johnson.

"That really just sealed the case. It's pretty hard to argue," said Hall. "We don't get a whole lot of DNA evidence cases and it is really really cool to see the forensics side make a case, too."

Johnson is being charged with burglary. He was arrested, but was released from the Manatee County Jail on a $5,000 bond. 

Breder, meanwhile, has learned to trust his wife's instinct.

"She's right and I've learned, after being married 30 years, to always listen to my wife," he added.

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