Encinitas and Oceanside break-in man held guilty

Eric Budd: “It is a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Eric Budd: “It is a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Eric Joseph Budd, 35, has a criminal history in San Diego County dating from 2015 when he was 28.

Budd has been accused of under the influence, petty theft, shoplifting, reckless driving, public intoxication, resisting arrest, driving under influence of drugs, and possession of drugs. In these past cases, Budd made plea deals and was released on unsupervised probation.


About 4 am on October 18, 2019, , a man named Ken said he heard glass breaking. He lives in an old home that he built with his father. It overlooks the beach and is in the 400 block of Moonlight Lane in Encinitas.

“The glass in our bathroom window was smashed. It fell onto the toilet and tiled floor. I knew what it was immediately.” Ken said he jumped out of bed and ran outside onto his deck, where he saw a man standing at his bathroom window. The stranger must have dragged a bench from another place on his patio; he was standing on the bench at the bathroom window. The stranger held a jagged chunk of cement in one hand, and he looked at the homeowner who was looking at him.

Ken testified before a jury, “And then I started saying mean and awful things about what he was doing to my house at that time of the morning, yelling as loud as I could. He had a cinder block in his hand, and my face was 8 feet away from him.” Ken yelled for his wife to get his shotgun.

Budd, 33, was arrested by deputies and made a plea deal more than a year later, in January, 2021, in which he admitted one felony burglary. He was sentenced to 365 days confinement, got credit for time served, and was released on “summary” or unsupervised probation.

(During his trial in 2022, Eric Budd told the jury that he did not really commit a burglary in 2019, he only agreed to that plea deal because he wanted to be released from custody immediately.)

Teresa and her boyfriend David had fallen asleep watching TV.


On a Tuesday night, September 2, 2021, Teresa and her boyfriend David had fallen asleep watching TV in their rented home in the 800 block of South Pacific Street, just one block from the beach.

“I woke up because I heard the sound of the magnet screen coming apart,” Teresa testified at trial. It was a mild night and they left the back door open. There was a barrier screen of fine-mesh to keep the bugs out.

Teresa awakened on the couch, and first she assumed her boyfriend must have gone through that doorway. “I opened my eyes and saw a man standing inside our apartment, in between myself on the couch and the door.” The stranger was one or two feet inside her home.

Teresa said she told him to “Get out! Get out!”

She testified, “He said sorry, and he turned around and walked out.”

Her boyfriend David testified that on that night he awoke to the sound of voices and the door shutting. He saw Teresa standing next to the door, “There was a look on her face, something was not okay. She began to say, There was a man. I thought she meant someone was out in the back.”

David said he grabbed his gun and went around their backyard, but he found no one.

Next, Teresa went out the front door of their home, and she saw the same man across the street. She pointed him out to her boyfriend, who used his cell phone to call police.

David stayed on the phone; he followed the stranger and gave directions as to the man’s progress, until the police dispatcher told him to stop. The 911 call was played for a jury six months later, in March 2022.


Oceanside police officer Ethan Gunzel responded to the call at 11:22 pm. He was the first cop to find a man matching the description in the 911 call: an Hispanic male, 20 to 30 years old, black hair in a ponytail, wearing a red shirt and carrying a bag. He found the suspect walking near Wisconsin Avenue and South Strand.

The cop’s body camera was played for the jury. The suspect looked leaner and more deeply tanned than the way he appeared later, as defendant in court. The pedestrian who stopped and turned when officer Gunzel called to him was Budd, 35.

(Oceanside police had contacted Budd the night before. At that time he was found asleep on someone else’s lawn on a different Oceanside street. In that incident, Budd was recorded by a surveillance camera at one home, he was walking the street and pulling on car door handles. At his trial later, Budd explained that he was just looking for a place to sleep.)

Prosecutor Daniel Gochnour offered him three years prison for a guilty plea.

Acting as his own attorney

Budd went on trial this March for the incident in September 2021 in which he allegedly entered the house in Oceanside. For this trial, Budd chose to act as his own attorney.

Before trial, prosecutor Daniel Gochnour offered a plea deal to Budd. The defendant faced a maximum of seven years prison if he was convicted of all current charges and allegations; the prosecutor offered him three years prison for a guilty plea.

But the defendant demanded that the prosecutor drop the entire case and put him back onto probation for his one prior burglary, the one he admitted from Encinitas.

Gochnour declined Budd’s counter-offer, and the case went to trial.

For his trial Budd wore a crisp, new, green, dress shirt before the jury, the tall collar and long sleeves covered his tattoos. And his formerly long hair was shaved close to his head.

Budd spoke directly to the jury in his opening statement, “it is a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

And he told the jury that he had “no dire need” to commit theft; he claimed that he had several businesses, these he operated through several websites. Budd said he offered to mine for cryptocurrency, and to fast with Jesus, and he had a Facebook page. “We are going to see my true nature as a spiritual evangelist, as well as an entrepreneur,” he told the jury.

“I am a victim of mental illness.” And he said he had a near-death experience, suffered three years amnesia, and had short-term memory loss.

Budd said he had an accident, and his mom died of cancer, and in 2019 he was homeless for a year.

Budd told the jury that he was looking for his cousin’s house in Oceanside at the time of the September incident. He seemed to say that he did go to that home, but it was a mistake.

But then, he invited the jury to question, “If it was even me at the house?”

He said, “I was almost willing to admit, but I am not an Hispanic male.” Budd did allow, “I had longer hair then.”

The jury saw bodycam video of a cop who questioned Budd while he sat in the back of a police car. The cop asked him if he went inside that Oceanside home looking for a place to sleep? But the suspect did not make clear answers to the cop. During his trial, Budd took the chance to explain to the jury, “No! I had my own sleeping bag and was looking for a place to sleep on the beach.”

But then Budd complained, “It’s not that comfortable being outside anymore! It’s oppressive in modern society.” Budd grumped that people looked down on him for sleeping on the beach, especially in front of the multi-million-dollar homes located there.

Then Budd told the jury that he has a brother in Encinitas who lives in a “two- or three-million dollar beach home.”

When Budd reviewed the cop’s bodycam video, he remarked on his own, extreme wide-eyed appearance, Budd pointed out his own “dilated” eyes. So the prosecutor asked him if he had taken meth or heroin that night, but the defendant said no. Budd did allow, “I take Ativan by prescription.”

Jury verdict

In his closing argument to the jury, Budd said, “This charge right here is about the wrong place at the wrong time.” And, “This case is pretty simple, nothing was stolen. No one even said they thought he was going to steal anything.”

He invited the jury to wonder, “Was it even me on South Pacific Street?” Budd suggested that Teresa did not really hear him entering her house, “It could have been wind that woke her up.”

Budd told the jury, “I had no intent to steal anything!” And, “I am just asking the jury to be fair. I am an innocent man at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The jury heard evidence for two days. They deliberated for one hour then declared Eric Joseph Budd guilty of felony burglary.