Two suspects in a rash of vacation property burglaries are now in custody after crashing a stolen car while being pursued by Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies Wednesday.
Charges are pending in multiple burglary and fraud related cases.
The break-ins took place during the past week at rental properties while visitors on vacation were asleep inside their accommodations. The female suspect, 33-year old Amanda Hunter of Valparaiso, had recently worked at a vacation rental company where her employer said she had access to electronic key codes.
Vacationers staying at 4459 Luke Avenue reported waking up Wednesday to find a man inside their condo stealing their belongings. He got into a car with an unidentified female, but a victim was able to get a good vehicle description for deputies.
Another family renting a property at 3650 Scenic Highway 98 also woke up yesterday to find the mother’s purse and electronics missing. There was no sign of forced entry. The victim’s credit card was used at the Destin Walmart and two checks were written for more than $600. Deputies were able to identify the female in surveillance video as Hunter, along with a man who was using the same vehicle described in the Luke Avenue burglary.
Deputies say Walton County has been experiencing similar break-ins, and the vehicle the pair was in, a 2013 black GMC Denali, had been reported stolen out of Walton County.
An OCSO deputy spotted the suspect vehicle Wednesday afternoon around 2:30 on Mesa Road in Destin but the driver immediately fled, ultimately crashing into a fence at a dead end on Sandalwood Drive. Hunter, the front seat passenger, dropped two firearms when she got out of the vehicle and was captured immediately. She is currently charged with grand theft and uttering a forged instrument.
The driver, 27 year old Derek Nielsen II of Fort Walton Beach, was apprehended after a short foot pursuit.
Deputies found a small amount of methamphetamine and heroin in his pants pocket.
Nielsen is currently charged with hit and run – leaving the scene involving property damage, possession of a controlled substance, grand theft of a motor vehicle, resisting arrest and more.
Deputies say multiple OCSO units and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the investigation and/or pursuit. The burglary and fraud investigations continue and additional charges are expected.