Burglary Suspect Cornered in Southampton

It took three officers to take him into custody after daytime break-in

A Springs man with a long criminal history is back in jail, facing multiple felony charges, after a daytime burglary in which he allegedly attacked a 21-year-old woman in Southampton Village Friday morning. The arrest was made after police cornered the man in the yard of a neighboring Breese Lane house, using a Taser to finally bring him down, Southampton Village police said Saturday.

Police received a 911 call at 9:40 a.m. from the woman, who said that a man wearing a ski mask and holding a knife had broken into the house. The alleged burglar, James Edward McErlean Jr., 56, attacked the woman. He was surprised by the woman's father, who returned home, but not before she sustained a lacerated hand and facial injuries, the police said. The assault charge indicates that the knife was used in the alleged attack.

The father chased Mr. McErlean down Breese Lane, with several officers joining in, according to the report, when the defendant was finally cornered. It took at least three officers to take Mr. McErlean into custody.

The Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance took injured woman to Southampton Hospital, where she was treated for her wounds.

Because of Mr. McErlean's status as a repeat felon, bail can only be set at the county court level, so the defendant was taken to county jail in Riverside after being arraigned in Southampton Village Justice Court Saturday morning.

Mr. McErlean was charged with having committed six felony crimes and five misdemeanors. Because he has been convicted of at least four felony crimes previously, he may qualify for persistent felony offender status. The most serious charge, burglary in the first degree, normally carries a mandatory 5 to 25 years in state prison as a sentence. However, if treated as a persistent felon and convicted of the most serious charge, under New York State's sentencing guidelines Mr. McErlean would be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in state prison and lifetime supervision upon release.

The defendant has a long history of arrests.

He was arrested on April 4, 2007, on a felony violation of a court order of protection, as well as harassment. Two weeks later, Suffolk County police arrested him on grand larceny charges, according to New York State's court records.

Between April 5, 2010, and Feb. 11, 2012, he was arrested five times by local police in Riverhead, mostly for criminal contempt.

On April 20, 2012, a grand jury in Riverside indicted him for the 2007 grand larceny charges. When he failed to appear in court, New York State Supreme Court Justice Martin I. Efman issued a warrant for his arrest. He was picked up and brought in to be arraigned on July 26 of that year. After posting bail, he failed to appear in court again and Justice Efman issued another warrant.

On March 21, 2013, he was picked up by the Orange County, Fla., sheriff's office as a fugitive, and was extradited back to New York. Back in New York, a second set of grand larceny charges were brought against him, in a separate case. This time, Justice Efman set bail at $10,000, covering the two sets of charges. Mr. McErlean did not post bail and remained jail instead, accruing time served towards his eventual sentence.

On Feb. 26 of this year, he pleaded guilty to four counts of grand larceny. On March 28, Justice Efman sentenced Mr. McErlean to 10 months in jail on each set of charges, as well as being ordered to pay $27,851 restitution to his victims. At the same time, he was also sentenced in Riverhead's local justice court to six months in jail on one criminal contempt charge. All of the sentences were concurrent.

Because of all the time he accrued in jail after being returned from Florida, he had already served much of the time he was sentenced to, and he was soon free.

Now, he is back in jail, perhaps for a much longer stay.