A man and woman suspected of committing at least eight burglaries and half a dozen armed robberies, sometimes with a baby in the back seat of the getaway car, were arrested early Monday in Rancho Santa Margarita, police said.
Todd H. Smith, 32, and Rebecca Mangan, 24, are being held in connection with a two-week rampage of burglaries and holdups at hardware and sporting goods stores across Orange County and in San Bernardino, Fontana, Corona and other Southern California cities, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The couple had been living in a Fontana motel, he said.
Several of the crimes were taped by store surveillance cameras. On Feb. 5, Orange County deputies released information and tape of a burglary at a Sport Chalet in Mission Viejo and an armed robbery at a Home Depot in Laguna Woods.
Police saw the suspects late Sunday in a white pickup truck after robberies at two sandwich shops in south Orange County but lost them after the couple ditched the truck and ran through nearby apartment buildings.
While deputies were searching the truck, the suspects drove by in a 1954 Ford Fairlane, Amormino said. The car broke down in front of the officers, and the couple were arrested about 2:35 a.m. after a brief pursuit on foot, Amormino said.
"They probably took the first car they could steal," he said.
Officers said they found a handgun and an ax in the abandoned truck. The baby, who was taped by some store security videos and appeared to be about 18 months old, was not there, investigators said.
"It surprises me that someone would carry a 1-year-old child around to where they're going to be robbing people and burglarizing stores," Amormino said. "A lot of shop owners carry handguns, and you're putting a child in danger when you have them in your getaway car."
Police late Monday were trying to determine the whereabouts of the child and whether the suspects are the child's parents, Amormino said.
Investigators said they suspect that Mangan cased stores and acted as a lookout for Smith, who they think committed the robberies. Hardware and sporting goods were taken, Amormino said.
"They've been pretty busy criminals, that's for sure," he said.
The couple were booked at the Orange County Jail and face charges of armed robbery, burglary, auto theft and child endangerment, Amormino said.
Investigators are contacting other police agencies to determine whether the couple might be suspects in additional crimes, he said.