October 26, 2021

A man, a plan, a van: Larceny

Police announce 2nd arrest in Cortland house safe theft

A Dryden woman was charged Monday in a Jan. 6 Cortland break-in that drew police attention when a stolen safe was so heavy it pushed the thief’s vehicle down, trailing sparks down the road.

Jennifer M. Brill, 45, of 13 Lee Road was charged with fourth-degree criminal conspiracy, a felony, and released to appear Jan. 31 in Cortland City Court.

Police began their investigation about 8:30 p.m. Jan. 6, when a motorist saw a van with its back end dragging on the ground near Sunnyfield Drive, heading toward Pendleton Street, leaving sparks. What the motorist and police didn’t know was that a stolen safe was in the back, city police said.

Cortland County sheriff’s officers encountered the van near Blodgett Mills Road and Page Green Road south of the city, where one suspect got out and ran, police said. The chase continued into the city, but the overloaded van spun out of control after crossing Saunders Road, tossing the safe from the van, where it skidded down the road, stopping 50 yards from the van, police said.

A front-seat passenger, Christopher M. Knickerbocker, 40, of 60 Cortland St., Homer, fled on foot, but was captured nearby. The vehicle’s driver also ran, but got away.

The passenger, Knickerbocker, was charged with second-degree burglary, a felony, and petit larceny, a misdemeanor. He also was ordered to appear Jan. 31 in city court.

Police said Brill, Knickerbocker’s ex-girlfriend, was not a passenger in the van, but had told Knickerbocker about the safe and the large sum of cash it apparently contained.

Investigators said Knickerbocker and another man hatched a plan several weeks ago to steal the safe, and Knickerbocker asked for Brill’s help to create an opportunity, which came when the homeowner visited Brill in Dryden.

Brill contacted Knickerbocker to tell him the homeowner was with her and Knickerbocker responded it was “a go for tonight,” police said.

A number of people came to police with information in the case, said Lt. Michael Strangeway. The investigation continues. Anyone else with information can contact Strangeway at 607-758-8307.