'Rock Burglar' Robert Neese gets nearly 23 years in prison

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – The man known as the “Rock Burglar” will spend nearly 23 years in prison.

Judge Pamela Svoboda on Wednesday sentenced Robert James Neese to 22.75 years behind bars.

“Today’s sentence should dispel any doubts about the commitment of this office to hold criminals accountable regardless of how long it may take,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said a statement released to media outlets. “I commend our law enforcement partners for their diligent efforts and cooperation in bringing this defendant to justice."

Neese, 60, originally was to be sentenced in early June, but that hearing was continued.

The case against Neese was almost a decade in the making.

In April 2013, he was tried and convicted of eight counts of burglary and seven counts of theft in a case stemming from a 2005 indictment of "John Doe." That indictment was based on DNA evidence collected from several crime scenes, some dating back to 1999.

After those convictions, Neese pleaded guilty to burglary and possession of burglary tools from an April 2011 case in Fountain Hills. It was that 2011 case that allowed investigators to identify Neese as the elusive Rock Burglar.

Detectives said Neese's DNA, which was collected during the investigation of the April 2011 case, connected him to the crimes listed in the 2005 John Doe indictment.

Neese is thought to have been responsible for more than 400 burglaries in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley,  Fountain Hills and Cave Creek, starting as early as 1993.

The Rock Burglar used rocks to break into homes through master bedroom or bathroom windows while the owners were away.

Detectives over the years said Neese was a savvy criminal, saying that he watched the targeted homes, often for several days, to make sure they were empty before striking. They also said he knew quite a bit about the valuation of jewelry.

In all, authorities have estimated that the Rock Burglar made off with $10 million in jewelry, cash and other loot over the years.

Neese faced a maximum sentence of more than 200 years in prison.