SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — San Marcos police say a man who was recently arrested and charged with breaking into a woman’s apartment and watching her sleep could be linked to other burglaries across town.
On Sunday, Dec. 3, a woman said she was asleep at her apartment at the Treehouse Apartments when she woke up around 5:30 a.m. and found a man watching her. The victim said the suspect, identified as 24-year-old Chaitanya Cherukuri, was crouched at the foot of her bed. According to an arrest affidavit, Cherukuri was not wearing any underwear and didn’t have any shoes on.
To keep him from running away, the victim grabbed her personal stun gun and held him at “Taser point” while she had her roommate call police. When officers arrived, they arrested Cherukuri.
“She took her own safety into her own hands,” said San Marcos Police Department Detective Garner Ames.
For the victim, it wasn’t the first time she has seen Cherukuri. According to court documents she believes he has been in her apartment at least six times and stated she knows for a fact that she has seen him twice.
The first time she saw him inside her apartment, the victim said she thought the suspect was intoxicated and accidentally walked into the wrong apartment. In the second case, the victim said she woke up and found him in her apartment, but by the time police arrived, he had already left.
Police believe Cherukuri had previously stolen the key to the victim’s apartment and made a copy of it and then returned the original key. “It is common for these types of sexual offenders to steal articles of clothing of the victims or other ‘trophies,'” reads Cherukuri’s arrest affidavit. “In this case, it was proven at the scene that the suspect had previously stolen the key to the victim’s apartment.”
Police found her key on a ring with other keys they say could possibly belong to other victims’ residences. At this time police believe there could be at least 15 other victims.
The victim did have her locks changed prior to the Dec. 3 incident but the suspect managed to get into her apartment by climbing through an unlocked window, according to the affidavit.
“It’s very important for people to lock their doors and lock their windows. That’s been the common element in all of these cases. Students tend to get relaxed and not lock stuff up,” said Ames. “It’s that time of year where the weather is cooling off so people have their windows open and stuff like that. People just get comfortable living in an area of town where there are a lot of students living.”
Police say so far all of the victims have been college students and have all been within walking distance of the Treehouse Apartments.
Police say Cherukuri is a student at Texas State and worked there as a teaching assistant. He is facing a felony charge for tampering with physical evidence in 2016. In that case he was arrested under similar circumstances less than a mile away from where he was arrested last week.
Authorities believe Cherukuri is linked to more than a dozen burglary and/or voyeurism cases in the area around where he lived, which is 800 North LBJ Dr. They’re asking people who think they’re victims to contact Detective Garner Ames at 512-753-2314.
Cherukuri has been charged with burglary of a habitation, stalking and voyeurism. He is currently out on a $140,000 bond.