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Charles Berkey linked to crime scene by dropped cell phone and DNA, police say

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 15 2013 11:01:01 AM CST
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

A man is facing charges for breaking into a car and trying to break into a home earlier this year because of two things he left behind -- his cell phone and his DNA.

Charles J. Berkey was arrested for breaking into Dr. Tony Panossian's car, which was parked on Dewberry Ave., Bethlehem, around 2:05 a.m. Jan. 8, and for breaking a screen on a first-floor window of Panossian's home, officials said.

Panossian told police he saw a man in a dark hooded sweatshirt walk out of his driveway, between his garage and his neighbor's, after his dog alerted him that someone was outside the home, officials said.

Panossian said someone had rifled through the contents of his car, but nothing was taken, although police found the right front passenger window had been damaged, officials said.

Damage to Panossian's car and home totaled $1,500, officials said.

Police found an Apple iPhone belonging to Berkey on the floor of the front passenger seat and a broken cigarette butt and a plastic coffee stirrer with chewed ends in Panossian's driveway, officials said.

Panossian told police he does not smoke, and that the coffee stirrer had been inside his car, although the ends were not chewed, officials noted.

When contacted by police, Barkey, who smelled strongly of smoke, denied ever being at Panossian's home and said his phone had been stolen after he had left it a convenience store at East Broad Street and Stefko Boulevard on the night of Jan. 7, officials said.

Surveillance footage from the convenience store showed Barkey was at the store with another man at 7:10 p.m. Jan. 7, but Barkey was not seen holding, using or leaving his phone behind, officials said.

Both men were wearing dark hooded sweatshirts, they added.

Barkey agreed to provide a DNA sample, and after it was analyzed at the Pennsylvania State Police lab, along with two pieces of the cigarette and the stirrer found in Panossian's driveway, Barkey was taken into custody.

Barkey, 21, whose last known address was 2625 Jacksonville Road, Hanover Twp., Northampton Co., was arraigned Wednesday night on charges of attempted burglary, criminal mischief, theft from a motor vehicle and loitering and prowling at night and committed to the Northampton County Prison on $25,000 bail, according to court documents.

A preliminary hearing is set for 9 a.m. Nov. 25.