By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Lynnwood homeowner who startled a burglar trying to boost a television got his own surprise when he discovered that his Zippo lighter stopped a speeding bullet.
The burglary and shooting happened in March. Authorities recently caught up with their suspect, Karl Zebe, a 51-year-old convicted felon and fugitive, after scientific tests reportedly connected him to evidence found at the scene of the crime. He was charged Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court with two felonies.
The homeowner told police that he confronted a burglar in his home late at night as the man was removing a 58-inch flat screen television from the living room wall.
The burglar, wearing a headlamp, yelled, “Stop, I have a gun.”
The victim heard gunfire, saw a flash and felt something hit his leg. The man didn’t think the burglar had fired a real gun because he didn’t feel like he’d been shot, court papers said.
“Do you want some more?” the burglar asked before running off.
The homeowner gave chase but lost sight of the man.
That’s when the homeowner found a hole in his jeans and a bullet in his pocket. His Zippo lighter had an indentation that matched the shape of a bullet. Investigators also found a spent shell casing for a .32-caliber gun near the back door.
The next day the man had a bruise on his leg where the metal lighter was struck. Police say they identified Zebe as the suspect through genetic evidence found on a lens that apparently fell out of the burglar’s eyeglasses and was left behind.
U.S. Marshals arrested Zebe in Everett last month after receiving a tip about his whereabouts.
Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor Ed Stemler charged Zebe with first-degree assault and burglary in connection with the March 20 incident. Zebe is being held on $1 million bail.
The state Department of Corrections had been looking for Zebe since March 2009 after he failed to report to his probation officer. Zebe was listed as a high-risk violent offender and named as one of the state’s most-wanted fugitives. He was under state supervision for a 2003 robbery conviction out of King County.
Zebe spent a few years in prison for a shoplift-turned-robbery. He was found guilty of injuring a security guard while trying to steal some computer software from a Costco. He also has criminal convictions out of New Jersey, California and Nevada.
During their investigation, police found writings posted on MySpace and elsewhere on the Internet that they attribute to Zebe. In a Sept. 15 post, he wrote about how he managed to avoid being caught by police.
In some of the posts, Zebe lamented over being locked up repeatedly “for virtually nothing more than a puff (of) weed.” After his arrest he told police that he wants to leave the U.S. because it’s the only country where people are labeled felons for life, Stemler wrote.
Zebe told police he didn’t shoot the Lynnwood homeowner.
His reading glasses tell a different story, according to detectives.
A stray eyeglass lens was found on the carpet in front of the abandoned television. Scientists at the state crime lab in Marysville found genetic evidence on the lens and compared that profile with those in the state’s DNA database. The evidence from the lens matched Zebe’s profile, authorities said. Zebe’s profile was in the database from his previous robbery conviction.
Zebe was known to wear reading glasses that he kept usually kept around his neck on a lanyard, court papers said. Detectives suspect Zebe had the glasses with him when he was trying to steal the television.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.