Dear Tom and Ray:
I am a prosecutor in Florida, and I've been stumped by a very interesting issue that's arisen in a case of mine. A team of burglars broke into an elderly woman's house using a distraction scheme. The accomplice rang the woman's doorbell and told her that the dome light in her 2002 Buick LeSabre was on. She went out to her car and saw that, in fact, the dome light was on. She unlocked her car door (the car does not have keyless entry, and she says she always keeps the car doors locked) and was unable to shut off the light. The accomplice offered to help and did manage to turn off the light. While this was going on, the burglar was inside ransacking the home. The victim insists that she did not leave her dome lights on accidentally. Assuming that the victim is correct that her car was locked and that she did not accidentally leave the lights on, how did the burglar and his accomplice manage to turn on the lights? If this case goes to trial, I would really love to explain this to the jury. Any help would be appreciated. — Kat
Tom: Well, I don't know exactly what they did, but we have to assume that if they're willing to fool an old lady and ransack her home, they're probably not opposed to using a $10 Slim Jim to jimmy open a locked car door.
Ray: It's quite easy to do, especially on older cars.
Tom: Then, once they're in, they can turn on the dome light using the headlight switch, re-lock the door and close it again. And voila, they have their pretext.
Ray: What I don't know is how they made it difficult for her to turn off the dome light. There's no very quick, easy way to do that. It's possible that the lady simply wasn't familiar with the dome-light switch and knew only that the dome light comes on when the doors are opened. Perhaps they just took advantage of her lack of knowledge.
Tom: Or perhaps they tinkered with, or removed, one of the switches in the doorjamb that tell the dome light that the door is closed. That's the kind of thing that can be done and undone in a matter of minutes if they were willing to risk a procedure that took that long.
Ray: You'll have to get more information from the victim and find out how she tried to turn off the dome light, and what finally worked. If you write back to us with more info, we'll try to help you piece it together.
Tom: Then my brother will come down and testify against them.
Ray: Yeah. In exchange for half of the loot. Good luck, Kat. Hope you put 'em away.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)