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Fire sparks theft investigation
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A fire at a Turlock residence led to the discovery of a purloined stash of credit and identification cards, the recovery of thousands of dollars worth of tools, and the arrest of two people.

The case began on the evening of Dec. 11, when the Turlock Fire Department responded to a fire encroaching on a residence in the 500 block of Sunnyside Drive.

Fire fighters found the fire, which started in an alley, had spread to the home’s rear door and the roof line. The fire was brought quickly under control and ruled an arson, said Turlock Police spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis.

Fire fighters came across a large supply of construction tools at the scene that were engraved with a last name that was different from that of the resident, Daniel Coates, 31. Additionally, fire fighters saw a man leaving the scene just as they arrived.

Given the questions about the fire’s origin and the other suspicious factors, Turlock police officers and investigators were dispatched to the residence.

Coates was not at his residence, but because he was on parole, his house was open to a search, Lewis said.

Officers checked the tools and found they had been reported stolen. The owner estimated the value of the tools at about $15,000.

Inside the home officers found a purse belonging to Heather Salen. Inside the purse they found numerous credit cards, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards — all in other people’s names, Lewis said.

Officers also found property from an auto theft that had been reported stolen earlier that day from the parking lot of the Sizzler restaurant.

Salen was located at the Sunnyside residence and arrested for possession of stolen  property, Lewis said.

Law enforcement were on the lookout for Coates and on Sunday morning he was found sleeping in a car in the 2100 block of W. Main Street.

Coates had a handgun in his lap when he was found, Lewis said. He was taken into custody without incident. It was found that the serial number on the gun had been destroyed, Lewis said.

Coates was arrested for possession of stolen property, being a felon in possession of a firearm and a felony charge of obliterating the serial number off a firearm.

The tools were returned to the rightful owner.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Turlock Police Detective Brandon Bertram at 668-5550 ext. 6623.