Judge OKs request for interpreter
A German interpreter and $250,000 bail were ordered for a Penn Valley resident accused of burglarizing several homes in the last two years.
He speaks heavily accented English, but 49-year-old Klaus Dieter Schalau communicated in German with help from an AT&T interpreter via telephone at his Wednesday arraignment in Nevada County Superior Court. Judge M. Kathleen Butz later granted his request for an interpreter at future hearings.
The judge also increased bail from $100,000 after Deputy District Attorney Jim Phillips argued that the German native planned to return to his homeland before his arrest. Schalau’s plea entry was set for Friday, and he was appointed a public defender.
Schalau’s criminal complaint lists seven burglary counts and four counts of grand theft. Seven victims, including a sheriff’s officer, are also listed. Sheriff’s Detective John Kropp said news of Schalau’s arrest generated more possible victims.
Schalau was caught in a one-man scheme that involved casing homes for sale while posing as a prospective buyer, and then returning to steal valuables, the Sheriff’s Office said. The earliest burglary report was made in January 2000.
Jewelry and guns were a favorite target, but a search of Schalau’s home Dec. 28 on Bar Hill Road also turned up seven laptop computers, a desktop computer unit, power tools, a mountain bike and telescope, Kropp said. Schalau’s wife, Elizabeth, and four of their children were home at the time.
Six “probable” victims have since surfaced, and the defendant has admitted to three other break-ins at unspecified addresses along Highway 49, according to the detective. Yuba County authorities are also looking into Schalau’s possible involvement in unsolved cases there.
Most items won’t be returned for a long time because of the court proceedings, Kropp said, but “I think most people feel vindicated because there’s a sense of justice.”
Roy Braatz is among them. He had questioned his grandchildren and neighborhood teens after a July 20 break-in at his Lake Vera-area home, which was for sale at the time.
“We had to ask everybody,” he said Wednesday. “We trusted them, but we had to ask them, and that was the worst part of the whole thing.”
It was Braatz’s stolen handgun, a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson, that led authorities to Schalau. The Sheriff’s Office said Schalau had pawned the gun in Sacramento, and the gun was discovered stolen Dec. 27 just as the pawn shop was about to sell it.
Braatz’s motorcycle helmet and ATM card were also stolen.
“Apparently (Schalau) got around,” said Braatz, noting that the ATM card had $1,200 in withdrawals soon after the heist, including for gas and food purchases in the Los Angeles area and at the Boomtown casino convenience store near Reno.
Authorities weren’t clear on how long Schalau has lived in the United States, or if he has a criminal record abroad. In Penn Valley, Schalau ran a shuttle business that took people to Sacramento International Airport, Kropp said.
Meanwhile, a German interpreter might be a first-time request for the Nevada County Courthouse, said Michelle Oliver, court interpreter coordinator.
She made several calls Wednesday to interpreters in the Bay Area, the nearest ones listed by the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Requests for Spanish and Asian-language interpreters are more common, she said. Interpreters usually earn $120 a day, plus driving expenses.
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