The hunt for a serial burglar in the North County has come to an end, thanks to quick thinking by an Escondido homeowner.
Jalen Nicholas Johnson, 18, was arrested on Monday. Investigators said Johnson is believed to be behind the burglaries of at least five homes. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon to several charges of burglary and attempted burglary.
Johnson was captured Monday afternoon after he came face to face with Escondido homeowner Maria Saldibar.
“I saw him where my back window was,” Saldibar said.
Saldibar was home alone when she heard a knock at her front door.
“I didn’t go to open it,” said Maria.
She told FOX 5 that seconds later, she heard the squeak of her side gate opening.
“When I saw him just walking behind my window, I was like what should I do? Should I hide in the closet? What should I do?,” Saldibar recounted.
Then she heard a loud crack at her sliding glass door.
“I thought everything was broken and he was inside,” Saldibar said.
She said she ran out of her room screaming as loud as she could.
“That’s how he actually got scared and ran away,” she said. “I went out to the front and went running after him.”
Saldibar said she quickly called 911. Neighbors heard her screams and came to help.
“They saw him running, jumping over fences and that’s how he got caught,” Saldibar explained.
Investigators said earlier in the day Johnson tried to break into a home half a mile away on Via Gordo. When an 18-year old woman spotted the suspect, he ran off. The young woman called her father, who came home and began driving around the neighborhood looking for the suspect.
As Saldibar and her neighbors were searching, the suspect ran into the father of the first burglary victim. When the suspect jumped over a fence into an apartment complex, deputies made the arrest with the help of another resident.
Investigators said Johnson was also the intruder captured on surveillance at an Escondido home in February. That home belongs to Saldibar’s sister.
“We saw one of the videos and he looks like that person from the video,” Saldibar said.
Saldibar said she believes it was not accident thatJohnson targeted her house. At her sister’s house, each room was ransacked. The thief made off with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, electronics and cash.
“He probably found something” that led him to her home, Saldibar said.