DENVER (AP) — A southwestern Colorado exterminator is suspected of earning the trust of his customers — and their dogs — to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items and cash over the course of nearly 30 years.
Charles Trogdon was arrested Nov. 1, days after one of his customers, who was hiding, said she saw Trogdon open a nightstand where money previously had been stolen. La Plata County sheriff's investigator Dan Patterson said other customers began calling and wondering if Trogdon was responsible for missing cash and items over the years — everything from tools and jewelry to a custom-made rifle.
Patterson said many of Trogdon's customers gave him their security codes or keys; a bag of 50 keys was found in his truck along with a box of dog bones. Authorities believe Trogdon returned to customers' homes after spraying for bugs to take an item or, in the case of cash, partial amounts of what he found.
"Never too much at a time though, just enough to keep people confused," Patterson said.
Some alleged victims were snowbirds who allowed Trogdon to spray their homes while they were in Arizona for the winter.
Some people thought they had just lost an item in their moves, while others suspected that a neighbor's child was stealing from them, Patterson said. One man only just realized his rifle was missing after news of Trogdon's arrest spread.
Trogdon's lawyer, William Herringer, said in a statement that he was troubled by the way the investigation has unfolded and he looked forward to bringing a "full and vigorous defense" to all the allegations. He noted that many of Trogdon's friends and clients still stand behind him, which Patterson acknowledged.
Numerous power tools were found packed in outbuildings at Trogdon's home, and he has been arrested three more times since Nov. 1 as investigators have returned to check out more reports of stolen property.
He was released after the first three arrests, posting a total of $75,000 bond. On Thursday he was arrested again on suspicion of first-degree burglary after investigators returned to his home to see if some guns reported as stolen were there. They ended up seizing all 37 they found, and the bond was raised to $750,000.
Investigators this week issued a news release asking anyone who hired Trogdon and found items missing to contact them. They included his latest mug shot and a copy of his business card.
In his statement, Herringer said law enforcement's comments to the media have been "one-sided, incomplete and calculated to prejudice the case."
Patterson said the earliest suspected burglary dates back to 1983 and investigators believe Trogdon has been stealing since then. However, he has only been charged with one count of second-degree burglary, stemming from his Nov. 1 arrest.
In that case, Patterson said the homeowners had become suspicious after $5,000 had gone missing over the course of a year, with $4,400 allegedly taken in the most recent alleged theft. Patterson said the customers hid their cars to make it look like no one was home, and Trogdon eventually pulled up to the house. He said Trogdon let himself in and the woman hid where she could keep an eye on the bedroom. He said Trogdon removed the latex gloves that he used for spraying when she confronted him.
The woman told The Durango Herald that Trogdon said he was looking for a a piece of paper to leave a note about a second home they were renting.