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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Police arrest 42-year-old Gainesville man for Gamma Phi Beta burglary

Burglar stole ice cream and candy

A 42-year-old Gainesville man was arrested and booked at the Alachua County Jail Friday for burglary of dwelling and petit theft at a UF sorority house. 

Eric Raymond Burns broke into the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority House Monday night and ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and a bag of M&M’s from the kitchen. 

The house was empty because most residents were away for break, according to police officer Shawn Barnes’ report of the incident. The victim, a Gamma Phi Beta’s House Mom, noticed Burns’ presence when she returned home. 

Once the victim saw Burns, as he immediately ran to the back door and escaped riding his blue bicycle. 

The Gainesville Police Department recovered surveillance footage from the sorority. The footage found Burns entering the house from the unlocked rear door. Once Burns made his escape, the footage was able to extract clear images of Burns’ appearance.

About an hour later, GPD alerted the University Police Department about the burglary, and UF issued the first timely warning Wednesday regarding Burns' behavior — including a link to footage and urging students to come forward if they recognized the burglar.

An RTS driver discovered Burns Friday afternoon riding the same bicycle in the 800 block of South Main Street. 

“The RTS driver recognized the Defendant from seeing him featured in the Alachua Chronicle online two days earlier,” Barnes said. 

After Burns was arrested, he voluntarily agreed to a police interview and revealed he was illegally living two blocks from the sorority house. His reason for breaking into the house was boredom and wanting to “explore.” 

“The defendant advised he did not go into any of the bedrooms of the sorority house or take anything (besides the food); he just stuck to the common living areas,” Barnes said. 

At the time of his arrest, Burns had possession of multiple cell phones, a backpack of a woman’s name written on it and other unidentified items. 

UF issued another warning Friday notifying students of  Burns' arrest and identity. 

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Burns has a history of misdemeanors, including damaging public property. On Jan. 28, 2021,  Burns was caught spraying a smile with black paint on a yellow street sign on the west side of I-75 at W Newberry Rd. Burns also sprayed his initials, “E-R-B,” on the I-75 overpass bridge columns. 

Burns’ bond was set at $120,000, an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates. 

Contact Elliot at etritto@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @TrittoElliot.

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Elliot Tritto

Elliot Tritto is a journalism senior and the news director for the Alligator. He's currently a host for the WUFT podcast, The Point, Friday's co-host and co-producer of WUFT's All Things Considered, and an ESPN Gainesville Radio Producer. When he's not having a chaotic lifestyle, he enjoys playing bass guitar and sports, reading, and spending time with family and friends.


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