Originally created 09/22/99

Suspect pleads to burglary



AIKEN -- An illegal alien from Mexico who was captured on videotape breaking into an Aiken home to look at women's undergarments faces a deportation hearing after pleading guilty to burglary in court Tuesday.

Jesus Altamira Baez, 22, accepted a plea bargain that aims to send him back to Mexico. Circuit Judge Marc Westbrook accepted his guilty plea and gave him credit for the four months he served in jail awaiting trial. He also ordered Mr. Baez to serve probation.

An agent with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has been contacted and is holding Mr. Baez until the deportation hearing can be held.

In court, Assistant Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. said homeowner Richard Bostwick and his girlfriend became suspicious earlier this year when items in their Wagener Road home began showing up in odd places. After watching a television show, they got the idea of secretly setting up a video camera.

The videotape showed Mr. Baez coming into the home, going to a clothes basket and picking up a sports bra, Mr. Thurmond said. The tape shows the man gratifying himself and sniffing women's underwear, the assistant solicitor said.

At the time of the incident, Mr. Baez was an employee of Bostwick Stables on Wagener Road. After seeing the tape, Mr. Bostwick asked the employee to return to Mexico, and he agreed. But when the Bostwicks found out Mr. Baez had returned to Aiken, they contacted Aiken County Sheriff's Office and showed them the videotape.

Mr. Baez, who had an Aiken address listed at Camp Rawls Road, was charged with second-degree burglary May 20. Officials then realized he was not in the country legally, said Solicitor Barbara Morgan.

In court, the defendant required an interpreter to understand the judge. His defense attorney, Michael Chesser, spoke on his behalf, saying that Mr. Baez had worked for Bostwick Stables for several years.

"They liked him, and he liked them. Then, this unfortunate incident arose, and he went back to Mexico," Mr. Chesser said. "Because of economic reasons, he felt compelled to come back."

Mr. Baez spoke only once during the court hearing, telling the judge through an interpreter that he just wanted to "hurry up and go back to Mexico."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.