Two Pasco men have pleaded innocent to allegations they were trying to steal appliances from a vacant home that was listed for sale.
Michael A. Gaines, 29, and Graciano E. Renero-Rodriguez, 26, were arrested after a couple delivering the Tri-City Herald noticed two men inside the newly built home.
The burglary suspects have been in custody since early Jan. 20, after the paper carriers followed their van until Richland police could stop them.
Gaines and Renero-Rodriguez face March 10 trials in Benton County Superior Court, each for one count of residential burglary.
According to police and court documents, the carriers were delivering papers at 4:17 a.m. on Strange Drive when they saw a van parked outside a house with all its doors open. The home has a "For Sale" sign in the front yard.
The woman called 911 after watching the men leave the house and speed off in the van, police and documents said. They followed the van until officers responded and arrested the suspects on Highway 240 near Columbia Park Trail.
The van allegedly contained items stolen from the house, along with tools, a wooden door and a barbecue.
Gaines, during his interview with police, denied being involved in the burglary. He claimed he just was in the area going for a walk and asked Renero-Rodriguez to pick him up.
When confronted with the fact that witnesses saw him inside the house, Gaines said Renero-Rodriguez had been trying to steal a microwave, court documents said.
Gaines later told another officer that the two men entered the home intending to steal property and had started to remove the microwave oven, but were interrupted, documents said.
Gaines and Renero-Rodriguez also are suspected of first-degree possession of stolen property. A prosecutor at a recent court hearing said they're believed to be part of a larger scheme involving other residences and keeping the property in a storage unit.
Gaines is being held in the Benton County jail on $15,000 bail. His criminal history includes a felony conviction in 2007 and multiple gross misdemeanor convictions.
Renero-Rodriguez has bail set at $25,000 because he has serious history out of California, including grand theft and criminal street gang participation. He also has an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; email@example.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer