Police: 'Master key' burglar preyed on his neighbors

Police: 'Master key' burglar preyed on his neighbors »Play Video
Joshua Laning
SEATTLE -- Police say the key to a Seattle man's recent crime spree was just that -- a key.

Joshua Laning already has 13 felony convictions, and police say his most recent crimes started when he got his hands on a master key to open all the units in his University District apartment complex.

For apartment residents like Cooper Pelluer, the allegations about Laning hit close to home.

'The master key is everything," he said. "If somebody has a master key they can come into my house, my neighbor's house."

That's exactly what police say Laning did. Investigators say he admitted to burglarizing multiple apartments in the complex.

Corey Dolbear said Laning lived in the apartment just below him.

"There's something a little strange about him. He's almost a little too friendly," Dolbear said. "One day he had knocked on my door and asked for my laundry key."

For a man who lived by himself, Dolbear said it seemed like Laning did a lot of laundry.

"All the keys to all the apartments would be here in the basement. I mean, how would you know that?" Dolbear said.

Police believe Laning stole the master key from a lock box in the apartment complex's utility room.

Charging documents show the key was discovered missing by the complex manager after a tenant called police to say their car keys were missing from their apartment and their car was gone.

Detectives say the burglaries were just one part of Laning's master plan. They believe he's also responsible for dozens of other home and car burglaries and has shoplifted and stolen identities.

Laning is now in jail on $200,000 bail, and his former neighbors say they're grateful for that.

"It's very uneasy, unsettling to know that somebody has that kind of access to all your private things that you trust are safe," Dolbear said.

Laning is facing two counts of residential burglary and one count of motor vehicle theft.