On Wednesday, a 66-year-old resident of Leilani Estates who evacuated due to the ongoing threat of lava was allowed to return home to grab his belongings.
To his astonishment, he discovered someone already inside.
It wasn't an emergency worker or first responder. Instead, it was 29-year-old Alexandru Stingu-Dragomir, as identified by police.
"It was a scary situation," Will Divine said. Divine is credited with catching the suspect.
"The person got out of the building and started to make it towards the road. I got him into the car and handed him over to the police. And (they) took care of it from there."
Divine, found keys on Stingu-Dragomir, believed to be from the home office.
On Thursday, Hawaii Island authorities said charges were filed against Stingu-Dragomir who is now being held in a Hilo cellblock.
He faces three counts of burglary of a dwelling, each a Class “A” felony. He also faces one count of burglary of a building during an emergency period, a Class “B” felony.
Hawaii law says burglaries of home during emergency periods are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The Class “B” felony charge is punishable by up to 10 years of incarceration, police said.
"When you're in the lava zone, you're already dealing with your emotions about losing your house and to find someone violating your premises, it was pretty bad," Divine said.
Big Island detectives say they've also linked Stingu-Dragomir to another burglary in Leilani Estates subdivision.
Stingu-Dragomir is being held on $175,000 bail.
This story will be updated.
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