Authorities called Darius Gittens "a sophisticated career criminal."
In 1986, he scaled a 20-foot prison wall in Ossining, N.Y., where he was behind bars for burglary and theft. Gittens, whom authorities recaptured three hours later, has convictions for the same crimes in California and Florida.
And now, New Jersey.
On Monday, authorities said Gittens, 57, of Medford, had been sentenced to 17 years in prison for stealing more than $2 million of goods from 21 homes in Burlington and Camden Counties.
The burglaries stretched across Evesham, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Haddonfield, and Voorhees.
Gittens targeted upscale neighborhoods, some adjacent to golf courses, police said. He cut phone and alarm wires, and usually smashed rear sliding doors, while also monitoring officers on a police radio, authorities said.
Gittens planned his crimes carefully between Halloween night in 2011 and August 2012, according to investigators. This year, in January, he pleaded guilty to theft and burglary charges.
"He is a sophisticated career criminal who familiarized himself with the patrol patterns of local police departments in Burlington and Camden Counties," the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Monday. "He spent a great deal of time planning and executing each crime, learning the habits of homeowners, and making sure they would be away during the burglaries."
Investigators said Gittens stole jewelry, watches, handbags, weapons, furs, and coins, among other items. He buried some of the goods in his yard, kept others in an abandoned building in Philadelphia, and pawned the rest, authorities said.
Detectives linked the burglaries to Gittens after finding his DNA on a flashlight that investigators recovered from a targeted home in Moorestown.
Gittens' intricate escape from Sing Sing State Correctional Facility in the 1980s with two convicted killers led to a massive search with police dogs and helicopters, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Gittens and the two men, Thomas Linz and Julio Giano, set off smoke bombs, jumped one story from a prison school window to the ground, and then used a rope to get past the 20-foot wall, the AP said. A guard fired a warning shot but was unable to stop the three, each of whom was later captured.