Finding you've been robbed is not a good way to start the week. That was Mike Burkoff's Monday morning, when he discovered that the shed at his Azalea Drive home had been broken into April 25.
Angered, Burkoff called police, but he thought it unlikely he'd ever find out who'd taken his chainsaw, power washer– and his brand new sports net from Sam's Club.
But by the next morning, Burkoff had discovered the address of the man he believes broke into his shed, and two days later he talked to him on the phone.
At press time, Burkoff was waiting to see if the police would arrest the suspect, and he's hoping they find him before he does. "Because if I do, I'm going to have to turn myself in," says Burkoff, intimating a willingness to rumble.
How the real estate broker became an amateur enforcer is simple: legwork.
After calling the police to report the loss of the $800 to $1,000 worth of belongings from the shed, Burkoff started talking to his neighbors and introducing himself to folks he hadn't met since moving in last December.
"To a person, the neighbors said, 'We've gotten broken into, too,'" Burkoff says.
That night he got his first lead when a neighbor knocked on the door, recalling that when he'd gotten home around 3:15am on April 25, he'd seen a man carrying a chainsaw and walking a power-washer down the street. The neighbor described a white male wearing a jumpsuit and baseball cap.
"I didn't think a professional [thief] would be walking down the street," says Burkoff, which made him think the perp lived nearby.
The next morning, he was up early, talking to more people and giving them a description of late-night equipment-mover. Around the corner from Burkoff's house, he talked to a woman on Camellia Drive who said, "That sounds like my sister's boyfriend," says Burkoff.
And when he mentioned the new sports net, the woman allegedly replied that she'd seen one still in its box and tucked under the stairs– and that the boyfriend was inside asleep.
Burkoff called 911, and police entered the premises. But they were unable to locate a sports net– or a sleeping boyfriend.
"The police say, 'Okay, we know who the guy is,'" says Burkoff. The man Burkoff believes stole his stuff is named Mike Dunnivan.
Burkoff began finding phone numbers, including that of Dunnivan's boss and his mother, who lives in Afton– where Burkoff believes Dunnivan is hiding out. By 4pm on April 28, Burkoff reached Dunnivan on the phone at the Afton number.
"I said, 'I'm going to catch you,'" Burkoff says he told Dunnivan. "I don't have anything better to do."
Albemarle General District Court records show that a Michael Allen Dunnivan was found guilty of breaking and entering without reason February 17 and sentenced to six months– with five months, 21 days suspended.
Michael Allen Dunnivan's list of convictions include petit larceny and tampering with a vehicle. Court records in several cases show him living at an Afton address, including a 1999 stalking incident.
But now Dunnivan may be feeling the pressure of an unwanted pursuer. Reached at an Afton number, Dunnivan expresses outrage at Burkoff.
"He's been calling, threatening me," Dunnivan tells The Hook on April 29.
Dunnivan denies any previous arrests, and adds, "My middle name is not Allen." He refused to say what his middle name is. "You can put this in the paper– you can kiss my a**," he says as he's hanging up.
Burkoff learned one other detail of the description of the alleged thief: "His whole upper body is tattooed. He walks around like a peacock."
Albemarle police say that Michael Allen Dunnivan has tattoos.
"The case is solved," Burkoff says. "I know who did it, I know where he lived, and I know where his mama lives."
At press time, no arrest warrant had been issued over the break-in.
"We have reasonable suspicion to believe Mr. Dunnivan took items from Mr. Burkoff," says Detective Jim Mooney with the Charlottesville police. "Mr. Dunnivan is definitely a person of interest. I don't know if that equates to probable cause at this time."
Mooney cautions that Burkoff's case could be undermined by his statements to Dunnivan.
"We discourage that," says Mooney. "If Mr. Burkoff is threatening over the phone, he's going to find himself in trouble."
Even Burkoff's amateur sleuthing may have backfired. Mooney explains, "If [Dunnivan] stole the items, naturally he's going to get rid of them."
Burkoff admits he had no idea he'd find an alleged suspect so quickly when he set out to meet everyone in the neighborhood. Whatever happens, he sees at least one benefit. "At least he's moved out of the neighborhood," he says of Dunnivan.
The self-deprecating realtor is still waiting for his path to cross Dunnivan's and he has a message for his former neighbor: "You really ripped off the wrong guy. He's crazy."
Mike Dunnivan of Afton says he isn't the same Michael Allen Dunnivan (shown above) with the interesting rap sheet.
PHOTO COURTESY ALBEMARLE POLICE