Charged in Crime Spree, After Chase

Police say burglar had $50,000 in goods, guns, and Brooks Brothers shirts

    William A. Donnelly, who gave police a Montauk motel where he had been staying as an address, was indicted in Suffolk Criminal Court on Tuesday on charges including four Class C felonies, 12 misdemeanors and moving violations. Mr. Donnelly, 30, is alleged to have gone on a five-hour crime spree on May 16 and to have led police on a wild chase before being captured on Shelter Island.
    The indictment alleges that he committed two burglaries that day and one the day before, in East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village, and Amagansett, valued in excess of $50,000. Judge Stephen Braslow set bail at $500,000.
    Mr. Donnelly faces a minimum of seven years in prison for each burglary because of previous brushes with the law, including a 2005 conviction for felony assault in the second degree. Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney, said on Tuesday that Mr. Donnelly could be sentenced to consecutive time if convicted of the three burglaries, or a minimum of 21 years.
    “He came in through the back door, and the guy was cooking eggs,” Ron Levin, the East Hampton Village burglary victim, said Saturday, describing how a neighbor stumbled upon the crime in progress on Barns Lane. The neighbor, Arthur Purcell, knowing that Mr. Levin was away and seeing eggs cooking on the stove, ran back to his house next door and called police. Although three officers arrived within a couple of minutes, the unwelcome visitor had left.
    According to Mr. Levin, who is 74 and on several medications including insulin, the officers found pills scattered all over as they went through his Barns Lane house.
    Mr. Purcell told police that he had seen a man loitering around the property earlier in the day, and he provided them with a description, which proved invaluable  when Shelter Island police arrested Mr. Donnelly after the chase.
    Mr. Donnelly allegedly struck another house that day, at 14 Osborne Lane, stealing a red van parked in the driveway, and putting Pennsylvania license plates on the van that he allegedly had taken off a vehicle in the Schenck parking lot. He then headed for Shelter Island, where he had lived for a time last year, according to Shelter Island Police Sgt. Jack Thilberg.
    But the island provided no shelter for Mr. Donnelly. Shortly after arriving there, island police received a call from someone concerned with Mr. Donnelly’s welfare. According to Mr. Clifford, the district attorney’s spokesman, the caller said Mr. Donnelly was high on drugs, and possibly armed.
    Several police cars approached the house on South Ferry Road where he was believed to be. However, he saw the cars and took off, the sergeant said, leading police on a high speed chase for several miles. The time was about 3:30p.m., and children who had just gotten out of the only school on the island were walking its narrow, winding streets, Mr. Clifford said. The van allegedly hit speeds of up to 80 miles per hour and slashed across crowded intersections, before crashing into a row of boxwood bushes at water’s edge at the end of a one-way street.
     Mr. Donnelly reportedly ran from the crash, and Shelter Island police, calling for reinforcements from the Suffolk Sheriff’s Department as well as state troopers and two canine search units, began the hunt.
    Mr. Donnelly was found hiding in a shed later in the day and arrested, Mr. Clifford said.
    Shelter Island police found that the van contained “an antique coin collection, several signed baseballs in cases, jewelry, cash, a laptop computer, and seven rifles,” Mr. Clifford reported. The owner of the van was able to identify several of the items.
    East Hampton Village police passed along the description of the Barns Lane burglar and a list of stolen items provided by Mr. Levin to the Shelter Island department. That list included a Felt bicycle valued at $1,500 and several Brooks Brothers shirts still in a shopping bag.
    The Amagansett house hit during Mr. Donnelly’s alleged crime spree was at 12 Sheperds Lane, just off Bluff Road. At the motel where Mr. Donnelly had been staying police obtained signed permission from his mother to search his room. They found other apparently stolen items.
    Mr. Clifford and Sergeant Thilberg said Mr. Donnelly confessed to the crimes he was accused of, but, represented by a Legal Aid attorney, he pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. His next court date is July 10. Mr. Donnelly admitted to having taken suboxone and vicodin and smoking marijuana, according to Mr. Clifford.
    “I never had a robbery in the 27 years I’m here,” Mr. Levin said. At police headquarters, he identified his missing items, lined up neatly in a row. However, he will have to wait a couple of weeks before he can get his beloved Felt bike back. The most difficult part of the ordeal for Mr. Levin, a hair colorist at a Manhattan salon, was cleaning up the black powder police used to dust for fingerprints. But he isn’t complaining.
    “I told the mayor [Paul F. Rickenbach Jr.] how wonderful the police were. The work was fantastic,” Mr. Levin said.