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Former newspaper carrier charged in burglaries

A former Duluth News Tribune carrier is accused of using his knowledge of when homeowners were on vacation to burglarize their homes. Michael Dean Peters, 44, of Duluth was charged with four felony burglary counts Tuesday in St. Louis County Dist...

Michael Dean Peters
Peters' next court appearance is scheduled for June 8.

A former Duluth News Tribune carrier is accused of using his knowledge of when homeowners were on vacation to burglarize their homes.

Michael Dean Peters, 44, of Duluth was charged with four felony burglary counts Tuesday in St. Louis County District Court in Duluth.

According to the criminal complaint, police officers investigating a string of burglaries in the Woodland neighborhood noted that the majority of the burglaries occurred while residents were on vacation or otherwise away for an extended time.

"It was determined that the burglary suspect might have been aided with knowledge that the residents were out of town," the complaint said.

Working under that theory, investigators contacted the News Tribune, which identified Peters as the carrier covering the area where the burglaries were happening. The newspaper also provided police with the list of newspaper cancellations for the area during the burglary spree -- information that carriers are given. Examination of the list revealed that six of the 11 burglaries reported from Dec. 29 to April 27 happened at homes where residents had suspended their newspaper service.

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Investigators contacted Gold Guys and Pawn America, both of which confirmed that Peters had sold them silverware and jewelry on numerous occasions.

On Friday, police executed a search warrant at Peters' home, arresting Peters and finding jewelry, silver wine glasses, silver candlesticks and computers. Peters also told police where they could find a bag of stolen silverware and other items that he had hidden under the 19th Avenue West viaduct.

"The Defendant admitted that he suffers from a gambling addiction," the criminal complaint said. "He confessed that he committed the burglaries at residences where he believed the occupants were away. The Defendant stated he did not want to take the risk of burglarizing an occupied dwelling. The Defendant admitted that he was after jewelry and silverware."

Peters "confessed to committing at least seven burglaries," the complaint said. He was charged with committing four burglaries that police were able to corroborate before the complaint was written.

"More charges are anticipated" as the investigation continues, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said.

As a newspaper carrier, Peters was an independent contractor rather than a News Tribune employee. He had been a carrier since October 2008.

"We have cooperated with law enforcement authorities and will continue to do so throughout the course of their investigation," News Tribune Publisher Ken Browall said in a prepared statement. "The person arrested is no longer contracted as a carrier for the Duluth News Tribune. We view this as a breach of trust as well as of contractual obligation and support prosecution of this case to the fullest extent of the law."

District Judge Shaun R. Floerke set bail for Peters at $15,000 Tuesday but referred Peters to supervised release, meaning Peters could be released without paying bail if he follows certain conditions.

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A search of Minnesota court records found that Peters has a 2001 conviction for felony burglary, a 2002 conviction for misdemeanor theft, a 2002 conviction for a traffic offense and a 2003 conviction for issuing a dishonored check.

Browall said the News Tribune does not do background checks on contractors. He doesn't know yet if the company will change its practice because of this case.

Related Topics: CRIMEWOODLAND
Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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