N4T Investigators: Mistaken Identity? - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Mistaken Identity?

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Tucson- A Tucson man was charged with stealing cases of beer from a Circle K, but he said photos prove it was not him.

Steve Ryan: Did you commit the theft?

Santiago Celaya: No

In fact, Santiago told the News 4 Tucson Investigators he was at home sleeping before work.

However, Pima County Sheriff's investigators say he did do it, along with a couple of accomplices.

He found out about it via a phone call from authorities.

Steve Ryan: What goes through your mind, wrongly accused, you have to defend yourself for something you didn't do?

Santiago Celaya: Yeah, it's a lot of stuff I don't want to go through. I didn't do the crime. I was nowhere near the crime. I don't know why I have to go through this.

Santiago claims sheriff's deputies never interviewed him.

He said the person in the surveillance photos doesn't even look like him, and that the guy has a smaller forehead, is African-American, and doesn't have long hair, or tattoos. Celaya told us he has visual proof from eight days after the beer was stolen, and said there's no way his appearance could have changed so dramatically in that time.

Steve Ryan: You took another photo at a memorial service?

Santiago Celaya: Yes

Steve Ryan: Your tattoos are there

Santiago Celaya: Yeah

Steve Ryan: No scarring, no redness, no scabbing?

Santiago Celaya: Nope. And I've had blonde hair since the beginning of 2015. The only thing that gets close to my real hair color is my roots, and the suspect didn't have blonde hair. If anything, they said he has black hair.

The Pima County Attorney's Office can't necessarily comment on cases until they're adjudicated.

"I want them to dismiss the charges. I want them to erase this whole entire fiasco they've brought forward," said Santiago’s mother Malinda Celaya.

Malinda told the News 4 Tucson Investigators that authorities went to the wrong address to look for that suspect vehicle, and that she had taken photos of the car and her son's identifying features.

Steve Ryan: Did you manipulate those photos at all, or are they genuine, right out of the camera?

Malinda Celaya: Genuine right out of the camera photos. Some of the photos are photos that someone else has taken in our family. They came right off of Facebook, and Instagram photos, so there's no way I can doctor those up or change the appearance of my son, which I don't need to. If the police would have just came and talked to my son.

Santiago was in court recently to address the accusations. The prosecuting attorney asked for the case to be dismissed without prejudice, which it was, because they hadn't had time to interview the Circle K clerk. But that means charges can be re-filed.

"I'd like not to have to go to court and not have to deal with this, and not have to put my mom through it, just to get it over with," said Santiago.

The crime is a misdemeanor, but a conviction could mean he broke his probation for another misdemeanor, equaling a sentence behind bars, compounding the concern of a young man who said he has been doing well, and remains focused on continuing that. 

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