True Stories Of Good Neighbors Who Helped Catch Suspected Crooks & Fight Crime

Check out these heroic examples of real-life neighbors who helped police close a missing person case, stop alleged serial burglars, identify homicide suspects, and bring down a mob boss on the run.

September 27, 2019
By: Mike McPadden

Photo By: Chris Watts [Colorado Bureau of Investigation]

Photo By: Mug shots of Shomari Moody [Clarksville Police Department]

Photo By: Mug shot of Ashton Sachs [Orange County Sheriff's Department]

Photo By: Mug shots of Terrence Kennedy and Paul Lupien [Broward County Sheriff's Department]

Photo By: Mug shot of James J. Bulger [United States Marshal Service]

Photo By: Mollie Tibbets [Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation]

Chris Watts' Guilt Is Palpable To His Neighbor While Watching Surveillance Tape

On August 13, 2018, someone killed the pregnant wife and two small daughters of Colorado resident Chris Watts. That someone, police later alleged, was Chris Watts himself.

At first, Watts seemed to be a grieving husband and father, reporting his family missing and begging on TV for them to come home. In time, investigators alleged Watts fatally strangled his expectant wife Shanann, 34; as well as the couple's two toddlers, Bella, age 4; and Celeste, age 3.

According to Denver's KMGH-TV, Watts pled guilty to the crimes in November and received five life sentences.

Authorities said a neighbor's security video proved essential to making the case. Nate Trinastich shared surveillance footage with police showing Watts loading his pick-up truck at around 5 a.m. on the morning of the killings, International Business Times reported.

Appearing on the "Dr. Oz Show," Trinastich said Watts parked the vehicle in an unusual spot, and Trinastich found it odd his neighbor loaded objects in the truck's cab, rather than the bed.

Trinastich also pointed out how Watts paced around with his hands on his head while having to watch the video with a police officer.

Radar Online posted the video of Watts watching the actual surveillance video in the company of Trinastitch and the police, and unsuccessfully attempting to explain that nothing they're seeing is out of the ordinary.

When Watts later left the room, Radar Online reported, Trinastich told investigators, in part, "He's acting so suspicious. He's normally quiet, real subdued. He's over here telling you three times what he took out…. He never talks, so the fact that he's over here blabbing his mouth makes me kind of suspicious. Why is he so worried about, you know, what he's carrying out?"

The neighbor's instinct proved correct and, following further investigations, authorities arrested Watts.

For the full story of Chris Watts, his capture, and conviction, watch Investigation Discovery's "Family Man, Family Murderer: An ID Murder Mystery" on ID GO now!

Read more: KMGH-TV, International Business Times, Dr. Oz Show, Radar Online, KCNC-TV

Tennessee Neighbors Banded Together To Catch Suspected Car Burglars

In July 2019, neighbors in Clarksville, Tennessee reportedly experienced multiple car break-ins and teamed with police to solve the problem.

Local residents posted about the suspected burglaries on Facebook and asked community members to be on high alert for suspicious activity. Soon enough, Nashville's WZTV News reported, residents spotted two suspects and took action. One man reportedly tackled Shomari Moody, 18, and held him for police.

Moody was reportedly arrested and charged with attempted burglary, evading arrest, and stealing a car from a previous incident. Authorities said officers captured a second suspect, a 17-year-old juvenile, who faces an attempted burglary charge.

Authorities have yet to detail if the arrests are related to more than one case.

Read more: WZTV

How A Neighbor's Security Video Helped Crack The Case Of A Teen Convicted Of Killing His Parents

On February 9, 2014, 19-year-old Ashton Sachs reportedly shot and killed his parents, Brad, 57; and Andra, 54; in their Orange County, California home. Ashton also attempted to kill his younger siblings, leaving his 8-year-old brother paralyzed for life, according to People magazine. Only his 17-year-old sister managed to get away and call 911.

At first, investigators reportedly had no leads. That changed when police examined a neighbor's surveillance video and spotted a white Prius in the area, People magazine reported.

Ashton, it turned out, drove a white Prius. Police also checked his phone records, which reportedly placed him in the vicinity of the crime. Later, officers said they found a rifle in Ashton's vehicle. An arrest followed.

In June 2017, a judge sentenced Ashton to four consecutive life terms for his homicidal rampage, "with additional penalties for enhancements," CBS News reported.

Learn more about the chilling case of Ashton Sachs, and how neighbors helped deliver him to justice, in the "Death Before Dawn" episode of Investigation Discovery's "People Magazine Investigates."

Read more: People, People (2), CBS News

How Florida Neighbors Worked With Police To Identify Suspected Serial Burglars

Following a costly and frightening series of break-ins in Hollywood, Florida, neighborhood residents reportedly paired with police and used surveillance video to nail the alleged culprits.

In March 2019, a neighbor's security camera allegedly captured Terrence Kennedy, 50; and Paul Lupien, 38; stealing about $2,300 worth of tools from a garage, Florida's Sun-Sentinel reported.

Following that burglary , the doorbell cameras of three other local homes allegedly recorded Kennedy and Lupien snooping around. One resident reportedly saw the men in a black truck and wrote down the license plate number for police.

Investigators said the truck belonged to Barbara Smith, 47, Kennedy's live-in girlfriend. Police reportedly followed the truck and arrested Smith and Kennedy. Lupien was arrested shortly after that.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, Kennedy and Lupien face multiple charges, including burglary, grand theft, and cocaine possession. Police reportedly charged Smith with a single count of cocaine possession.

The case has yet to go to court.

Read more: Florida Sun-Sentinel

How Sharp-Eyed Neighbors & Google Earth Helped Close A 22-Year-Old Missing Person Case

On November 7, 1997, Florida resident William Earl Moldt, 40, reportedly left a nightclub at about 11 p.m., got into his car, and was never seen alive again.

Over the next 22 years, authorities and loved ones searched for Moldt to no avail, According to The Charlie Project. The case came to a head in August 2019, when a Google Earth photo depicting a car submerged in a retention pond caught the attention of a keen-eyed observer, Newsweek reported.

The pond, according to police, is located behind the home of Barry Fay in Moon Bay Circle, Wellington. While looking at Google Earth images of the area in 2019, an ex-husband of Fay's neighbor reportedly noticed what appeared to be a submerged car.

The neighbor reportedly took screenshots of the image and sent them to Fay who, in turn, contacted another neighbor who owns a drone. That neighbor reportedly used the drone to take closer photos of the vehicle, which Fay sent to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department.

Upon retrieving the white Saturn, investigators reported finding the skeletal remains of Moldt inside the vehicle, bringing closure to a mystery that had gone on for more than two decades.

Read more: Newsweek, The Charley Project, Palm Beach Post

The Neighbor Who Helped Bust Boston Mob Boss Whitey Bulger

According to authorities, James J. "Whitey" Bulger lorded over Boston's Winter Hill Gang from the 1970s to the mid-90s and allegedly orchestrated a myriad of crimes ranging from typical mob shakedowns to an array of brutal slayings.

For much of that same period, Bulger reportedly acted as an FBI informant and allegedly used family ties to law enforcement to bring down gangland rivals and solidify his power in the underworld.

Bulger's reign ended in 1995 when the feds reportedly indicted him in connection with illegal gambling. Bulger allegedly got word of his impending bust and fled, successfully remaining at large for 16 years, until a neighbor reportedly pointed investigators in his direction.

In 2007, Josh Bond took a job as a property manager and moved into an apartment complex in Santa Monica, California. Bond's older next-door neighbor allegedly introduced himself as Charlie Gasko. That name was, authorities said, an alias used by Bulger.

Bond told CBS News Gasko seemed to just be the nice guy next-door until June 2011 when the FBI, acting on a hotline tip, showed up and asked for the manager's help in busting Whitey Bulger.

Working with the FBI, Bond reportedly told Bulger someone broke into his basement storage locker. When Bulger went downstairs to check it out, 40 FBI agents reportedly greeted him.

Bulger was tried and found guilty on 31 counts, including extortion, drug dealing, and money laundering. He was also found responsible for the deaths of 11 people.

Following the arrest, Bond said Bulger assured him he had no hard feelings. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. At that point, they were going to get me with or without your help," Bond told CBS News.

For more on this case, watch the "Breaking Bulger" episode of Investigation Discovery's "I Married A Mobster" on ID GO now!

Read more: CBS News, Biography, CNN, Boston Globe

The Mollie Tibbets Slaying: How A Neighbor's Video Led Cops To An Accused Killer

On July 18, 2018 , Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts reportedly stepped outside for her regular evening jog and never came home. After an intense search, authorities found her body in a cornfield on August 20, 2018. They then arrested Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, and charged him with first-degree murder.

According to Time magazine, a neighbor's surveillance video helped lead officers to Rivera. Investigators allegedly used the footage to identify Rivera's car in the vicinity of Tibbett's last known whereabouts.

After Rivera was brought in for questioning, he allegedly confessed to killing Tibbetts and led cops to her body. Rivera's alleged status as an undocumented immigrant reportedly helped him maintain a low profile, so the neighbor's video proved crucial in leading authorities to the suspect.

The Des Moines Register reported Rivera has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Read more: Time magazine, The Des Moines Register