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Prolific thief gets 20 years

| Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

PHOENIX — An elusive thief who stole millions of dollars in cash and jewelry from hundreds of Phoenix-area homes over nearly two decades by using rocks to smash through windows was sentenced on Wednesday to more than 20 years in prison.

Robert James Neese, 60, of Mayer, Ariz., dubbed the “Rock Burglar,” pleaded with the judge to show leniency after his attorney described his troubled childhood, limited education and lack of violent history.

“I want to apologize to the victims. I'm really sorry. I deserve to go to prison. I just don't deserve to die there,” Neese said in court.

Maricopa County Judge Pamela Svoboda had little to say to Neese, aside from meticulously reciting each count and issuing a complex sentence that included multiple prison terms, some to be served consecutively, some concurrently.

In total, less about two years of credit for time he has been behind bars since his arrest, Neese was sentenced to just over 20 years in prison.

Authorities believe Neese was responsible for hundreds of burglaries in affluent neighborhoods dating back to the mid-1990s, including former Vice President Dan Quayle's residence. However, they were able to connect him only by using DNA to a string of break-ins starting in 1999.

He was convicted of multiple counts of burglary and other charges in April, then later pleaded guilty to similar charges in a separate 2011 case.

Rand said Neese was also smart, stealing items only from the master bedrooms and bathrooms where burglar alarms were not active.

“Most people don't have their master bathroom, master bedroom alarmed because if they have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, it would set that off,” Rand said. “The defendant preyed on those weaknesses.”

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