Accused traveling burglar takes plea deal

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An Arizona fugitive, whose alleged crime spree across four states came to a crashing end in Colusa County over a year ago, could spend years of his life moving through court processes.

Danny Wayne Light, 48, who was dubbed by Oregon law enforcement as one of “The Traveling Burglars,” pleaded no contest in Colusa County Superior Court on March 25 to unlawful use of a vehicle, in a plea deal reached with prosecutors that dismissed local burglary charges.

Light was already sentenced in Glenn County Superior Court last April to two years in state prison for evading a peace officer with willful disregard for the safety of others, after he led Willows California Highway Patrol officers on a high-speed pursuit through Glenn County, before crashing the car he was driving into a ditch near Maxwell on Feb. 18, 2019.

The vehicle was rented to his alleged partner-in-crime, Julia Wheatley, 39, who is accused of burglarizing the home and stealing a Jeep from an Arbuckle woman three days earlier.

Wheatley is currently incarcerated, in Texas, but is wanted also in Curry County, Oregon, for multiple burglaries and for using a stolen credit card at the Gold Beach Kohl’s Department Store, which places Light with her on surveillance footage, authorities said.

The Colusa County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to the accused serial thieves after an observant father witnessed the theft of his daughter’s Jeep from her Arens Street home, in Arbuckle, located across the street from his.

According to preliminary testimony by Deputy Diego Valdivia, Carlos Lopez went outside to smoke a cigarette when he witnessed a Red Chevrolet Silverado pickup parked in front of his daughter’s home. He then saw a woman, later identified from neighborhood surveillance footage as Wheatley, drive off in his daughter’s Jeep, followed by the Chevy pick-up, driven by a man.

Lopez’ daughter, Jeannett Lopez, immediately returned home to find thieves had stolen jewelry and other property from her home, including a camera that was discovered three days later in the car Light was driving when he crashed.

Lopez’ Jeep was dumped shortly after it was taken, officials said, likely because the father of the victim had tried to flag it down as it was being stolen.

Light and Wheatley were dubbed “The Traveling Burglars,” after Medford-area police connected them to a burglary spree using the same modus operandi.

The couple is accused of using rental vehicles to engage in their criminal activity, which allowed them to move about without drawing too much attention to themselves. They are suspected of committing at least 20 burglaries in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Oregon, authorities said.

According to Colusa County investigators, Wheatley rented the Red Silverado used in the Arbuckle burglary from the Sacramento Airport on Feb. 6, 2019. She exchanged it at the San Francisco Airport on Feb. 16, the day after the Arbuckle burglary, for the 2019 Chevy Malibu that Light was driving when he fled from the CHP after an attempted traffic stop.

Wheatley’s alleged crime spree came to an end on Feb. 28, 2019, when she was arrested in Bell County, Texas, on drug charges. She was sentenced to state prison at the Hobby Women’s Unit, and is scheduled to be released on Jan. 2, 2021, after which she could be extradited to the numerous jurisdictions where she is facing charges.

Wheatley is wanted in Colusa County and is charged with first degree burglary, second degree burglary, grand theft of personal property, unlawful taking of a vehicle, receiving stolen property, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The Colusa County District Attorney’s Office dropped the local burglary charges against Light following his preliminary hearing, as only Wheatley was clearly caught on surveillance footage at the Lopez home on Arens Street and the Sinclair gas station in Arbuckle.

Wheatley’s accomplice in the Arbuckle burglary, presumed to be Light, is notably a male with a dark cap, but otherwise unidentifiable, investigators said.

While Light was caught in Wheatley’s rented vehicle with “the spoils” from the Arbuckle burglary, Light is only facing up to one year in jail for driving the rented vehicle without permission from the owner.

He will be sentenced on April 25.

Light is also charged with being a fugitive from justice, a felony, and has an extradition order to be returned to Arizona after his incarceration is completed in California.

The fugitive charge is expected to be resolved at Light’s sentencing hearing, officials said.