Teenagers who toilet-papered and damaged a home now face felony vandalism charges because of a mother's extraordinary sleuthing.
Katja Base, mother of six, was unwilling to let the teens get away with it, saying she tracked them down to teach her kids about accountability.
Base awoke one February morning to find her front lawn strewn in white two-ply toilet paper. She and husband Ken also found damaged landscaping and light fixtures as well as ruined finishes on two cars.
Dog food and flour also covered the lawn.
Realizing the sheriff's department has better things to do than track down teen pranksters, Katja Base decided to do some detective work.
"There needs to be accountability," she said. "Mainly, I pursued this as a lesson for my daughters. I don't want them to ever come to me and ask why I didn't do anything about this."
The tale of the register tape
Base persuaded supermarket managers to tally daily toilet-paper buys for the week and a Stater Bros. manager said there was a run on bathroom tissue two days before her home was vandalized.
At 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17, someone bought 144 rolls of toilet paper, cheese, dog food, flour and plastic forks, the same items found on her lawn and house. It was a cash transaction, making it difficult to trace the purchaser, but the store had video surveillance.
Let's go to the videotape
The video showed four teenagers making the purchase, one of them wearing a Norco High School letterman's jacket with a name stitched across the back. The store's parking lot surveillance camera showed the truck they were using.
Base then borrowed a Norco High yearbook and used online databases to get the name, phone numbers and addresses of the teens on the store tape.
"Her work was instrumental in helping us to identify the suspects," said Lt. Ross Cooper of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
The information was eventually sent to the district attorney's office and prosecutors confirmed that about six youths were now facing vandalism charges. However, they would not release details of the case or names of the defendants because they are juveniles.
The maximum penalty for the adult would be three years in prison; the juveniles could face probation and restitution, district attorney's office spokeswoman Ingrid Wyatt said.