Jason Charles Mesagaes Jr., a 19-year-old resident of Faith Lane in Palm Coast, is at the Flagler County jail since Wednesday afternoon on felony charges of burglary and criminal mischief in what police are describing as the resolution of a months-long investigation of a break-in and theft of cash at Sally’s Ice Cream in Flagler Beach six months ago. Mesagaes, who faces a felony drug charge in a previous arrest, is being held on $5,000 bond.
The morning of October 20 Flagler Beach police officers were summoned to Sally’s Ice Cream, the popular parlor in the heart of Flagler Beach, on State Road A1A. A front window to the business had been shattered sometime during the night. Nothing was touched or taken inside–except that the shop’s old-style safe had been opened, with keys, and its contents stolen.
It was immediately apparent to Karen Barchowski, who owns the shop, and to police officers, that whoever had carried out the heist knew what he or she was doing, because the key to the safe was kept in a very particular place that only employees knew about, and opening the safe was no simple matter. Every employee who’d had to do it couldn’t do so without help, especially the first time. It required the use of two keys, and a turning of the key in a particular way.
The case was handled by the department’s newest police officer, Evan Scherr, along with detective Rosanna Vinci. They interviewed all employees and came up empty.
But the burglar had left an unintended calling card. There was fresh blood on the ledge by the window the burglar had broken. Blood samples were collected and sent off to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s DNA lab. Meanwhile, police analyzed video surveillance footage from a nearby business. It wasn’t the best quality, so police couldn’t determine who was in the frames. But they could see that it was a man, that he was wearing a hoodie pulled over his face, and that he held a black hammer and some sort of fabric in the other hand. They could see that the man committed the burglary that morning at 1:51 a.m., and that he walked out of the business through the front door at 1:54 a.m.–just three minutes to find his target, get into the safe, and leave. That, too, was an indication that the man knew exactly what he was doing, and so must have been very familiar with the business.
FDLE’s DNA test was completed on Jan. 28. There was a hit: the blood matched that of Mesagaes, with a one in 700 billion possibility that it belonged to someone else. There are fewer than 8 billion people on earth, and though most of them would be fond of Sally’s Ice Cream, authorities concluded that it was impossible that the blood belonged to anyone but Mesagaes. His DNA was in FDLE’s database because of at least one prior arrest.
On Jan. 31, Circuit Judge Terence Perkins signed a warrant for another DNA swab of Mesagaes, which Mesagaes provided after providing a urine test at his parole officer’s office. (The parole officer told police that there was concern Mesagaes was tampering with his urine samples, passing off samples that weren’t his own. A police officer stood by as he provided the sample.) He then submitted to the DNA swab, and agreed to answer officers’ questions.
Scherr told him where the case stood, and that a substantial amount of blood–Mesagaes’ blood–was found by the broken window. Mesagaes said that was not possible. “I explained the only way his blood would be there was if he was physically there and cut himself or if someone drew a large amount of blood from him and placed it there,” Scherr, according to the arrest report, reported telling Mesagaes. Mesagaes shook his head “No,” that no one took his blood. As Scherr pressed and Mesagaes realized he was in a corner, he said he’d better talk to a lawyer. “I don;t want to answer these questions wrong,” he said.
But he had allowed that he’d previously worked at Sally’s Ice Cream for about six months, either one or two summers before the burglary, serving ice cream and working the cash register. He knew where the safe and its keys would be. He told police he knew the owner and “considered them to be a family friend.” Police also learned in conversation with him that he had allegedly used fentanyl, the drug significantly more potent than heroin, suggesting that the alleged burglary was motivated by a need for cash for more drugs.
On April 7, Perkins signed Mesagaes’s arrest warrant. The next day, Scherr and Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies served the warrant and arrested Mesagaes.
“This case is a perfect example of tenacity, teamwork and utilizing technology to its fullest potential,” Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney was quoted as saying in a release his agency issued today, giving “two (2) scoops up for all involved in this case.”