Uninvited guest eludes authorities in Columbia County

A burglar who has been staying in unoccupied homes remains at large.

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DAYTON -- An opportunistic burglar is been making himself at home in vacant or unoccupied houses in Dayton.

He's managed to elude property owners, real-estate agents and law enforcement for several months while sometimes using the houses for shelter, according to the Columbia County Sheriff's office.

Sheriff Walt Hessler is asking victims of this stealthy squatter to preserve evidence and call his office right away if they discover their property has been entered.

The burglar sometimes lives in a vacant home, setting up barricades or elaborate warning systems to alert him of the presence of other people, according to a news release from the sheriff's office. He also sometimes covers windows to hide his activities.

Damage to property by the burglar includes doors, windows and screens when he breaks in. He has also stolen things, such as heaters, books and generators.

Owners of vacant homes are encouraged to check the property frequently. "Please consider security systems and aggressive means to lock or secure the premises," Hessler said.

The suspect has been sighted, but the description of him is vague. He is described as a tall white male between 25 and 50 years old.

"He's very discreet. We do not have any good descriptions of him," public information officer Dian McClurg said Monday.

McClurg said persons who discover a break-in should not fix things or touch things.

"Call us so we can try to get more details on what he's doing. It's hard for us to follow his pathway when people clean up his messes," she said.

Anyone with information about the burglaries or related suspicious activity should call the sheriff's office at 382-2518.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at cec@innw.net or 522-5289.

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