An Irvine woman recalled the terrifying moment she found a burglar hiding inside her closet. The victim, Brittney Heinzman, 35, remains frightened after the shocking encounter.
She moved into the luxury Skyloft apartment complex just months ago. She left town for a week during the Thanksgiving holiday and when she returned on Dec. 1, she discovered the front door unlocked and her apartment completely ransacked.
As she investigated her home, she opened the closet door to discover the intruder inside — a woman found crouching down and clutching kitchen utensils.
“She just looked at me like a deer in headlights and I just screamed, ‘Get out! get out!’” Henizman recalled of the terrifying encounter.
Heinzman recalled the intruder saying, “‘Please don’t hurt me,’” but that just threw me off more. I’m like, ‘Are you going to hurt me?’ because she has a pizza cutter in her hand. I didn’t know.”
Heinzman said she composed herself for a moment before the intruder eventually walked out of the apartment.
She immediately called the police. She and a friend followed the suspect through the complex, capturing cell phone video and images of her. A neighbor’s Ring camera also captured the suspect running back and forth in the hallway at one point.
Irvine police identified the suspect as Wendy Wilkinson, 43, a neighbor of Heinzman’s. She was arrested for burglary and possession of stolen property.
During a search of her home, police found more than $30,000 worth of Heinzman’s belongings — including two flatscreen TVs, designer handbags, a passport and credit cards — stashed in the suspect’s home, car and a nearby storage unit.
Investigators believe she had entered Heinzman’s apartment multiple times before. Court records indicate Wilkinson has a history of similar crimes and may be a serial burglar.
The victim is concerned that property managers aren’t doing a thorough enough job on criminal background checks for residents.
“Where was security?” Heinzman asked. “I feel like I’ve been just stripped down to nothing. To have somebody go through your every drawer, your every cabinet, take your passport, take everything personal. You’re just left with so many questions.”
As for how the suspect entered Heinzman’s apartment, that remains under investigation by police.