DNA sample leads to pasta poacher

A DNA sample was the damning evidence that led investigators to find a thief who stole property from the Southland Church Donation Center in 2019.

Elton Verestiuk was caught by a drop of blood taken from the scene of the crime during the December 2019 inquest. A shattered window cut Verestiuk during his burglary from which constables later took a blood sample while they watched the scene.

Surveillance footage showed a masked individual breaking into the center through a window and stuffing his backpack with goods before fleeing into the night. The next morning, a property manager called the police after discovering the broken window and noticing the missing items and messy shelves.

“It was an unsolved case, but for the fact that they had this blood,” Crown Attorney Peter Edgett told the court in Steinbach last Thursday during a decision on the case.

After testing the sample against their database, officers found a match to a sample Verestiuk submitted to officers after a previous conviction required his DNA to be recorded. Verestiuk was previously convicted of theft in 2017, which resulted in him serving 45 days in pretrial detention, 12 months probation and ordered to pay $600 in restitution.

Verestiuk apologized to Judge Larry Allen for the theft.

“I have friends within the church and there are better options,” he said.

Allen said sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures; among the donation center inventory, some of the products recovered were Kraft Dinner and pasta sauce.

“If you’re hungry, go to people like that and say, ‘you know what, I need food’ and they give it to you rather than breaking the window,” the judge told Verestiuk.

Along with an 18-month suspended sentence, Verestiuk issued a formal apology to Church leaders in Southland and performed community service for them. In return, Southland Church did not seek protection orders from Verestiuk.