BELLINGHAM - A burglar convicted of stealing more than $14,000 of equipment from a Bellingham chiropractor's office must spend four years in prison, a Whatcom County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday, May 29.
Thomas Christopher Daniel, 29, pleaded guilty to theft in the first degree for breaking into Natural Way Chiropractic about 11 p.m. March 30. Over the course of a half hour, he rounded up computers, a scanner, an expensive Nikon camera and cash. The burglar's face came into view of a night-vision security camera as he turned down a dark hallway on the second floor of the business at 2000 N. State St.
The business posted a snippet of the video on Facebook, then shared it with news media on April 8. Tips from the public pointed police to a stash of electronics Daniel had dropped off at a relative's home. Officers arrested Daniel a week later when they came across him in a Haggen parking lot. He had a baggie of black tar heroin in his pocket, according to charging papers.
Daniel offered to accept responsibility for the crimes soon after his arrest, said Deputy Prosecutor James Hulbert. Judge Ira Uhrig approved a sentence of four years Thursday.
Daniel has to pay back more than $14,000 to the business.
Dr. Eddie Hansen, owner of Natural Way Chiropractic, said insurance covered most of the loss in the first place. Several of the 30 or so pieces of stolen property have been recovered by police, but most of the electronics still haven't been found.
Still, Hansen's satisfied with how swiftly the county courts worked in this case.
"I'm happy as hell," Hansen said. "Another bad guy off the street, not breaking into our businesses and homes, stealing our stuff."
Daniel had eight prior felony convictions, all for drug- or theft-related crimes. Four years ago he got caught on a security camera charging $34 to a stolen credit card at a market near Lake Whatcom. Police arrested him and found stolen jewelry in his backpack.
Court records show Daniel went on to confess to a string of break-ins where he'd taken a $5,400 Nikon camera and a $2,000 laptop to support his heroin habit.
Dr. Hansen said he hopes the prison time will help Daniel to kick the habit.