Burglar breaks into preschool, takes van

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- The owner of a Phoenix preschool is reeling after a break-in at her business.

An intruder broke in, caused damage, left a mess and stole a van from the preschool. That van has since been found, but the suspect is still on the loose.

The owner of Panda Bear Learning Center said she believes the burglar came in through a window and made himself at home before taking off with the van.

Terri Knight said when she got to her business at Missouri and 23rd Avenue Monday morning, the first things she noticed were a knocked-down fence and the missing van.

“He took the keys and rammed through the fence,” she said.

Then when she went inside with police, she saw the mess the intruder had left behind. "The whole kitchen was a mess," she said.

She said she saw a half-eaten Hot Pocket, lemonade, and an open can of chili that had been splattered all over the walls and floor.

"He took his socks off and left his dirty socks on the ground in the preschool room, and clipped his toenails,” said Knight. “I think he was going to take a shower, but the shower doesn't work in the bathroom."

She said music was also left blaring. And when she stepped into her office, she said it had been ransacked.

Knight said that’s where the burglar found the van's key. "I was worried about not getting it back,” she said. “Without the van, I could not operate because 18 kids go to school, and they rely on me to take them to and from their parents."

But later that morning, Knight got a call from Edna Mattox. "I came out this morning, and my dog's barking, around 5:00. I came out, and I saw the van sitting there,” said Mattox.

Mattox said she was suspicious when she saw the van in her neighborhood."There's not usually something like that sitting around there,” said Mattox.

After that call, Knight quickly went to Mattox's neighborhood, and sure enough, there was the van.

"I’m so happy," said Knight. She was relieved and happy, even though she was still missing some things, like an X-box, a Coach purse and eight car seats.