Man Charged in Highland Lakes Burglaries

Posted: September 6, 2012

Robert Woodruff a 22-year-old Vernon/Highland Lakes man was charged with six counts of burglary and theft as well as tampering with evidence and drug possession following a police investigation.

At 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 30, 2012, Detective William Gebhard observed a man wearing a backpack walking a dog and acting suspiciously on the south end of Lakeside Drive West in Highland Lakes. When Det. Gebhard turned his vehicle around to investigate further, the man was gone.

A resident in the area told the detective she observed the man walk off into a wooded area after the detective drove past. The man, identified as Robert Woodruff, was located a short time later walking out of the woods but he was no longer wearing the backpack.

Det. Gebhard stopped Woodruff and found he was in possession of a marijuana pipe. Detectives Sean Talt and Keith Curry and Lieutenant Stephen Moran arrived to assist.

A subsequent investigation was conducted which involved a search of the woods at the south end of the main lake off Lakeside Drive West as well as a K-9 track conducted by Detective Gebhard and his bloodhound Amber.

The backpack was located, it was empty and appeared to have been set on fire. A short time later, Amber led officers to a smoldering campfire deeper in the woods. In the fire the detectives located partially burnt items that were connected to a burglary reported on July 7, 2012 at Lakeside Drive East. This home had been forcibly entered and a safe, cash and jewelry valued at over $10,000 was taken.

A further investigation connected Woodruff with an additional burglary reported on July 4, 2012 at another home on Lakeside Drive East in which forced entry was made and two laptop computers were taken. These computers were recovered in Paterson in August.

At 10:30 p.m. the night of Woodruff’s arrest, a search warrant was executed at his home and additional evidence was recovered. Woodruff was charged with two counts of burglary and theft as well as tampering with evidence, possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. He was lodged in the Sussex County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail set by Vernon Municipal Court Judge James Devine that evening.

A further investigation was conducted by Detective Sergeant Brian Jernick and the above-mentioned detectives. This investigation resulted in connecting Woodruff to four additional Highland Lakes burglaries thus far:

  • On June 28, a resident reported that his home on East Lakeshore Drive was forcibly entered and a TV, gaming system and games were taken.
  • On July 15, a resident on Lakeside Drive East reported that someone forcibly entered the home and removed a jewelry box containing gold jewelry.
  • On August 8, a home on Rutherford Place was discovered forcibly entered and numerous items were taken that included a safe, jewelry and coins valued at over $10,000.
  • On August 27, a resident on Coon Den Road reported that their home was forcibly entered and a laptop computer was taken.

On Thursday, September 6, 2012, four additional burglary and theft charges were filed against Robert Woodruff for the foregoing crimes. Additional bail was set at $100,000 by Vernon Municipal Court Judge James Devine.

The investigation into multiple burglaries in the Highland Lakes area this past spring and summer is ongoing and additional charges are expected.

The Vernon Township Police Department was assisted by Highland Lakes County Club.