Alleged Madonna Inn cake-napper identified with help of Facebook

mfountain@thetribunenews.comFebruary 12, 2014 

A man who sneaked into the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo on Feb. 8, 2014, and stole a chocolate cake was identified as Shea Patrick Martin, 44, of Morro Bay after the owner posted surveillance video to Facebook.

MADONNA INN

The theft itself was a cakewalk, but a recent confection pilferer couldn’t escape a swift slice of justice from social media.

On Feb. 12, the San Luis Obispo Police Department announced that its officers identified a suspect in the brazen theft of a custom cake from a display case at the historic Madonna Inn thanks to an upset owner and Facebook.

Shea Patrick Martin, 44, of Morro Bay was identified as the cake-nabber from the Feb. 8 incident after Madonna Inn owner Connie Madonna-Pearce took to the social networking website to display the surveillance videos and ask for the public’s help in identifying Martin.

According to San Luis Obispo police Lt. Bill Proll, the cake was custom-made for a customer to pick up the next day and was worth about $35.

Proll — who said he first learned of the incident from his Facebook feed — said at least one Facebook user contacted Madonna-Pearce with information. She then contacted the Police Department, whose officers compared an old booking photo from the San Luis Obispo County Jail with the footage of the cake burglary.

The department then found that Martin lives in Morro Bay and asked Morro Bay police to make a stop at Martin’s home to ask him about it.

When officers arrived at the house, the alleged cake snatcher slipped out a back door and fled.

Shortly after, the San Luis Obispo Police Department received a phone call allegedly from Martin admitting to taking the cake. He said he would report to the station to talk with officers, but later called to say he wasn’t coming in. A few days later, according to Proll, an unidentified female came in to the Madonna Inn and paid for the cake.

However, both the Madonna Inn and investigators want to see charges filed against Martin, so Proll said the department will submit a petty theft charge to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

Proll said that if Martin had arrived to fess up, he probably wouldn’t have been arrested; they likely would have written him a ticket with a notice to appear in court. Should the District Attorney’s Office file charges, Martin will be required to appear before a judge on a burglary charge.

“We like cooperation, but we got none from him,” Proll said. “The question is, do we want to spend our department’s resources over a $35 cake?”

Proll added that Martin’s case takes the cake as an example of social media’s ability to benefit law enforcement efforts and as well as empower victims in holding crooks accountable.

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