Suspects arrested after students report multiple break-ins off campus

Police suggest students lock their car doors and keep valuables out of plain sight to avoid future incidents.


Furr Mills Road, where many of the break-ins occurred, is a popular location for off-campus seniors to live. Many of the students have cars to travel to and from campus. Photo by Emily Cohen, ’19.

Alison Murtagh

The Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office has charged suspects in relation to recent car break-ins affecting Washington and Lee seniors living off campus. 

The break-ins occurred along Furrs Mill Road and Greenhouse Road in Rockbridge County. 

Lead investigator Joshua Berry confirmed that around 10 to 12 break-ins were reported in the area.

“We do have suspects that have been charged,” Berry said. “They have been charged with some of the break-ins. Not all of them, because property is still being sorted out and we’re trying to ensure exactly which victims own which pieces of property.”

Berry said he considered most of the items stolen to be valuable. Items taken include sunglasses and electronics.

Berry said 90 to 95 percent of the cars broken into belonged to students. The area is a popular location for Washington and Lee seniors to live after they move off campus.

Olivia Stoffel, ‘19, said when she got into her car to go to her morning class on Monday, she realized items were out of place—such as her sunglasses case, lip balm, and hand sanitizer.

“That’s when I knew someone had been in my car. And I was really uncomfortable,” Stoffel said. “I was extremely lucky not to have anything really valuable taken, but I felt really violated that I knew someone else had been in a space that normally I am only in.”

Stoffel later called the police to report the incident.

Jonathan Pezzi, ‘19, also said he could tell someone had been in his car.

“Things were thrown throughout the car, all of the compartments within the car were wide open, and several of them were broken,” Pezzi said. “And I had a couple of small things taken, but I mean my car didn’t really have enough of value in there to actually steal anything.”

Pezzi said someone had broken into his roommate’s car as well.

On Monday night, police surrounded the street.

“I come home from working, and there is like five or ten police cars just parked along the street,” Pezzi said. “Basically, like, directing traffic. And I immediately assume that’s what’s going on.” 

Julia Poppenberg, ‘19, said she called police after she and a friend saw a man crouching between her and her roommate’s car. 

“And when [we] came out, he popped up, and ran toward the direction of my neighbor’s house,” Poppenberg said.

She said police arrived and scouted the area with dogs.

According to Berry, none of the victims reported any property damage.

“Obviously if someone really wants to get in, then they will do damage, whatever is necessary to get in. However, in this case, these were almost all unlocked doors,” Berry said. “Something as simple as ensuring that their vehicle is locked and also keeping valuable items out of plain view or out of the vehicle in general could deter this kind of issue.”

Students were pleased with the way the police handled the investigation of the break-ins. 

“The police were super helpful and super nice,” Poppenberg said. “They were really great throughout the whole process.”