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Alleged prowler burglarized open Woodbury garage, police say

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A St. Paul man found walking around a Woodbury neighborhood at 1:30 a.m. had one story for the first person who stopped him. When police caught up with him, he had another story to tell.

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Washington County prosecutors got the final word and charged the man with first-degree burglary.

Christopher Lee Berendt, 39, was arrested Wednesday after police found him in possession of a cellphone that contained photos of a driver's license belonging to a resident of a nearby occupied home.

According to a criminal complaint, police were called to the area of Traverse Road and Settlers Ridge Parkway for a report of a suspicious vehicle. While en route to the call, police received another report from a person who said he had just been in a verbal argument with a suspicious man.

Police met with the witness who said he watched a blue SUV driving toward the end of a dead-end street. The complainant said he witnessed a man getting out of the vehicle and looking into cars in the area.

The witness confronted the man, who said claimed he lived a block away and was looking at landscaping. The witness used his phone to take photos of the suspicious vehicle's license plates. The suspect told the witness he shouldn't take photos and walked down the street.

He was then apprehended by police and identified as Berendt. He told officers he was looking at buildings under construction while cooling off after a domestic argument.

Police searched his SUV and located a cellphone belonging to Berendt. The phone contained a photo taken of a driver's license belonging to a Traverse Road resident. Police contacted that residence. A man there said he was unaware he had left his garage door open overnight.

The Traverse Road resident said he had left his wallet in a vehicle parked in the open garage. The driver's license was still in the wallet, though a credit card was missing, the man reported.

The missing credit card turned up in Berendt's vehicle, according to the complaint.

According to online public records, Berendt's criminal history includes two 2003 convictions - one in Dakota County, the other in Hennepin County - for attempted financial card fraud.

Berendt makes his initial court appearance on the burglary charge on May 10.

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Mike Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
(715) 426-1072
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