A Robstown man has been sentenced to 50 years in prison after being convicted of a seventh burglary in Robstown in 15 years.
Juan Soliz Jr., 37, was sentenced last week by 319th District Court Judge Thomas Greenwell after Soliz was found guilty by a jury of burglary of a habitation.
The burglary occurred Oct. 2 when Soliz stole yard machinery from a tool shed at 402 N. Fourth St. in Robstown.
His accomplice, Amy Marie Garza, 21, pleaded guilty to burglary of a habitation Oct. 29. She was sentenced on Jan. 3 to 16 months of probation and assessed $351 in fines and court costs, in addition to being ordered into a substance abuse program.
Garza testified against Soliz at last week's two-day jury trial that ended Feb. 20. Soliz testified that he picked Garza up prior to the burglary "for a sexual favor."
Garza's attorney, public defender Joel Thomas, argued unsuccessfully at the trial that the burglary did not occur at a residence, but rather at a vacant structure.
Police said state law has been changed to include sheds and other non-occupied structures as parts of residences.
Robstown police said Soliz had six prior burglary convictions before last week's trial and had six years of parole remaining before last week's sentence.
Police said Soliz, a life-long Robstown resident, burglarized seven Robstown residences between May 1992 and October 2007, with the most recent burglary occurring Oct. 2 when Soliz and Garza burglarized the shed at 402 N. Fourth St.
Robstown police said officers were summoned to a burglary in progress at the home at about noon Oct. 2.
An eyewitness told police she saw a man take a lawnmower out of the tool shed and put it into the bed of a pick-up truck. The witness also said she saw a woman remove several fishing rods and a weed-control device from the shed and she gave police a description of the getaway truck.
Police stopped the pick-up truck at the Stripes store at Avenue J and First Street and found Soliz and Garza inside. Six fishing rods were found in the bed of the truck, but not the lawn equipment, police said.
Soliz, also know as "Bule," and Garza were then arrested. The eyewitness identified them as the burglars, as well as the truck used in the burglary, police said.
Police said the burglars ripped siding from the back of the shed to make a 2-by-2 foot hole to get inside.
Garza later told police that Soliz created the hole and that she only helped carry away some of the stolen property.
Garza also later told police that she and Soliz sold the lawnmower and the weed device to a man that was cutting grass at the home of Robstown Mayor Rodrigo Ramon Jr.
Garza later led police to the mayor's home on West Ligustrum Boulevard, court records said. The mayor's lawn was freshly cut and police contacted Ramon, who gave police the name of the man who cuts his grass.
The gardener from a lawn service company was found cutting the grass at the home of the mayor's father on West Avenue C, court papers said. He confirmed that he bought a lawnmower, weed control device and blower earlier in the day for $35 from a man and woman driving a pick-up truck.
All three stolen items were recovered from the gardener, police said.
Soliz later told police that he broke into the shed to get money for gasoline and cocaine, according to court records. Soliz also said he intended to pay his "compadre" back for the stolen goods, valued at $290.
Police said Soliz's father and the burglary victim are best friends.
Robstown Detective Sgt. Enrique Paredez Jr. said that burglaries committed at enclosed structures on residential property would be considered residential burglaries.
"We want to send out a message that breaking into these sheds are now being considered as burglary of a habitation, a second-degree felony, carrying a sentence of two to 20 years for the first offense," Paredez said. "Burglars might want to think twice before committing their crimes."