Two men were arrested Wednesday afternoon after a sheriff's deputy caught them burglarizing a South Highway 59 home that's been vacant since its owner died last year, authorities said.
Apparently the two men, 36-year-old Heath Steers of Atwater and 66-year-old Donald Davis of Merced, didn't think they were doing anything wrong. They told sheriff's officials they didn’t know it was illegal to steal from a home where no one lived, said sheriff's spokesman Tom MacKenzie.
As he was driving to another call just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, deputy Dwayne Pavelski spotted two men loading a pickup truck backed up to the house, located on the 700 block of South Highway 59, MacKenzie said.
Pavelski knew the home had been empty since its owner died last year, so he stopped to check it out, MacKenzie said.
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He found Steers and Davis filing the truck with an array of metal items from inside the house, including pots, pans, oven racks, a toaster oven, a shovel and loose wire, authorities said.
"The deputy asked them what they were doing, and they basically admitted they were stealing," MacKenzie said. "But they said they didn't think they were breaking the law because the house was abandoned."
The men told the deputy they planned to sell the purloined items for cash to a scrap metal dealer.
Steers also had a syringe, MacKenzie added.
The house had been burglarized several times before, officials said.
Both Steers and Davis were arrested on suspicion of burglary. They remained at Merced County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.