DNA links driver to N. Branford break-in

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Aug. 15, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — DNA evidence has linked the driver in a high-speed chase in Clinton to a 5-year-old convenience store break-in on Route 80, police said.

Detective Sgt. Ken McNamara said David Schoendorf, 33, of East Haven, was arrested Thursday and charged with third-degree burglary and third-degree larceny.

Police said Schoendorf crashed a stolen Jeep Cherokee into the front of the Cumberland Farms on Route 80 early in the morning of Aug. 17, 2003. He then filled a trash can with cartons of cigarettes and drove away, police said.

The statute of limitations for the crime would have run out in three days, McNamara said.

“We would have had to arrest him before the 17th, so we just got him in,” he said.

When investigating the crime five years ago, McNamara and Detective Ron Onofrio found a red Jeep with front-end damage matching the description of the car involved parked in New Haven.

The car had been stolen in East Haven, according to police, and the detectives found blood on the driver’s seat and door.

McNamara took a DNA sample and sent it to the State Police Forensic Science Laboratory in Meriden, where it remained on file.

McNamara said they suspected Schoendorf at the time, but were not able to solve the case.

The Jeep was found parked in front of a pawnshop owned by Schoendorf’s father, he said.

In May, Clinton police arrested Schoendorf after a high-speed chase that began on Interstate 95 and ended when he crashed his car at the Route 80/81 traffic circle in Killingworth. During the incident, he allegedly rammed two police cruisers, injuring an officer.

Police found cartons of cigarettes in his car that may have been taken in another burglary.

Schoendorf faces several charges in that incident as well as larceny charges from Orange and North Haven police, according to court records.

McNamara said North Branford police received a letter in June from state police saying Schoendorf’s DNA — obtained after his Clinton arrest — matched the 2003 sample.

Onofrio obtained a search warrant to confirm the DNA match, and North Branford police charged him Thursday.

Schoendorf was already being held in lieu of $100,000 bail in the Clinton incident.

He was arraigned Thursday on the new charges and held in lieu of another $15,000 bail, according to the Superior Court clerk’s office.

McNamara said DNA is becoming a more common tool for town police.

“We’re starting to see more of our crimes being solved in this manner, so we’re looking at other ways to obtain the evidence from scenes to get DNA,” he said.

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