National News

Cheerleading Mom Turns Into Suburban Sleuth, Helps Catch Wanted Criminal

Posted February 6, 2018 4:18 p.m. EST

— Sometimes a nosy neighbor can be a nuisance, but a cheerleading mom turned suburban sleuth trusted her gut instinct – and helped put a wanted criminal behind bars.

"I'm proud. I'm a proud Clifton cheer mom," said Gina Scaduto-Zhitnick of Clifton, New Jersey. "I was just going to see a game and I bumped in to a fugitive."

As WCBS-TV's Valerie Castro reported Monday night, Scaduto-Zhitnick said nothing gets by her – especially in the Clifton neighborhood where she has lived for more than 20 years.

Last week, when she saw a strange man leave a vacant home for sale next door, she had a hunch.

"I knew it was a little suspicious, so I followed him," she said. "I followed him in his car, which I probably shouldn't have, but I did."

The white car eventually sped away. But the incident never left Scaduto-Zhitnick's mind.

"I went to my daughter's game, and while I'm sitting here watching her cheer, it was on my mind a lot," she said, "Like, I knew this guy was no good."

She spotted the same car when she returned home a few hours later, and called police.

"They came around they surrounded the house and there had to be like 10 of them, and he wasn't coming out," Scaduto-Zhitnick said, "and they're screaming - the officers commands to step out of the house – 'We know you're in there!'"

Police finally got inside and searched the entire home. They found the suspect hiding in a crawlspace up in the attic.

That suspect, Martin Burnett, was a wanted man in Delaware for a probation violation. Police said he was hiding out with burglary tools and the white car was reportedly stolen.

Castro asked Scaduto-Zhitnick if she had ever considered a career in law enforcement herself.

"Yes, I did," she said. "I always wanted to do that. That's why I feel so proud. I always wanted to be an officer."

Scaduto-Zhitnick's husband also said he was "very proud" of his wife's actions.

"That's just the way she is," added her husband, Mike Zhitnick. "If she sees something out there that's not right, she'll figure out what's wrong."

Scaduto-Zhitnick might not carry a badge, but she knows a criminal when she sees one.