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Police snag burglary suspect

Evidence is recovered linking Christopher Morton to 15 commercial burglaries in Madras since Sept. 20
News Editor
   A Madras man accused of 15 commercial burglaries was arrested by police last week after they seized evidence from his apartment that links him to a string of break-ins that has shook the city's downtown businesses core during the last four months.
   Christopher Morton, 19, of 339 S.W. H St., apartment A, was arraigned on Jan. 10 before Circuit Court Judge George Neilson on charges that include 10 counts of second-degree burglary, one count of second-degree arson, one count of criminal mischief and one count of possession of a schedule II controlled substance -- all class C felonies.
   District Attorney Peter Deuel said he expects more charges to be filed against Morton, including several counts of theft for property taken from several local businesses. The unemployed Madras resident will either be indicted on charges by a grand jury today or come before a judge in a preliminary hearing at 1 p.m in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
   Morton has no prior criminal record and has lived in Madras the past 5-6 years, his court-appointed attorney Jim Laws told a judge last week. His bail has been set at $75,000.
   Police say they have obtained evidence including bulk cutters, pry bars, rolled coins, clothing and stolen items that link Morton to the break-ins of the following businesses between Sept. 20 and Jan. 5: Columbia River Bank, Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Center, Black Bear Restaurant, Juniper Custom Framing & Gallery, Golden City Restaurant, Mike & JAC's Gas, Great Earth Natural Foods, Flaherty's 99 Cent Store, Burgerworks, Westside Elementary, Busy Bee, H&R Block, Dr. Hiskey's office, Space Age Fuel and Granny's Kitchen.
   "What we've obtained are minor amounts compared to what's been stolen," said Madras police Capt. Tom Adams. He said thousands of dollars in stolen goods, cash and property damage has occurred as a result of the burglaries.
   Morton was arrested shortly after midnight last Thursday after officers with the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team contacted his roommate at the residence he shares with Morton.
   Police said their contact with Morton's roommate was not based on the burglaries, but on drug information the CODE team had obtained.
   At the apartment, police said they first learned that Morton also resided there. He consented to allow them to search his room where they obtained evidence of possession of methamphetamine, police said. During their search, police said they also found items believed stolen from several local businesses including a large safe taken from Granny's Kitchen on Jan. 5 -- the last known Madras business to be burglarized.
   The Madras Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office then obtained a search warrant before continuing further. Morton was arrested for possession of a schedule II controlled substance and police proceeded to search the entire residence including his girlfriend's car. There, police said they found more evidence linking him to several break-ins including a surveillance tape and video recorder taken from Granny's Kitchen.
   CODE team Sgt. Steve Webb, who made the initial contact with Morton at the appartment, said the arrest shows how drugs and theft "go hand in hand."
   Morton was initially charged by police with 14 counts of second-degree burglary, 11 counts of second-degree criminal mischief, two counts of first-degree criminal mischief, four counts of first-degree theft, seven counts of second-degree theft, one count of second degree arson in addition to possession of a controlled substance before being arraigned in court.
   The second-degree arson charge stemmed from evidence linking Morton to a fire that was set to the Juniper Custom Framing & Gallery shop on Oct. 3 after money and items were taken.
   Police said more arrests could take place.
   Two other businesses, Gloria's Espresso and the Madras Coffee Station, have also been hit since Sept. 20 that police did not indicate Morton was linked to.