Case of the year: Detective helps nab one of Tustin PD’s most wanted


The victim didn’t remember much.

Tustin Police in November 2007 were called out to investigate the report of a sexual assault, but the responding officers had little to work with.

Police investigated, developed suspect information and said it appeared the 21-year-old woman had been drugged then sexually assaulted.

The mechanic accused of the rape, 24-year-old Paul Dennis Zukowsky II, fled and became one of the Tustin Police Department’s 10 most wanted.

That is how Tustin police reports recount what happened on November 25, 2007, and it’s about all the information Det. Eric Haug had to go off of when he picked up the case in 2013.

Haug, an 11-year veteran of the Tustin police force, was assigned to trying to track down the city’s most wanted criminals, which includes accused rapists, murderers and child molesters.

He started with Zukowsky.

“We believed that he was still living in the states, so I just started focusing on him,” Haug said.

But it was as if the fugitive had vanished.

“He walked away from his life,” Haug said. “He walked away from his lease, never picked up his last paycheck and walked away from all his bills.

“He just disappeared off the grid.”

Haug, who was one of several detectives to investigate Zukowsky since his 2008 disappearance, said he knew the suspect had family in Colorado, but the information stopped there.

Then a random traffic stop by Tustin Lt. Jeff Blair provided a lead.

Blair had stopped Zukowsky’s brother for a violation and recognized the last name on his driver’s license.

He jotted down the man’s information, which included a Colorado address.

“It wasn’t the right address, but it gave us a town to focus in on,”  Haug said.

Then an informant researched the family’s name online after becoming suspicious about several men living in the home in a heavily wooded area of a rural Colorado town.

She discovered Haug was looking for someone with the same last name — Zukowsky.

“When she saw the name she called us and said, ‘I think this is your guy,’” he said.

That gave Haug a residence to home in on.

“Everything is like a puzzle piece,” he said. “You’re missing pieces and sometimes pieces seem the right size but they don’t really fit, so you move them around a bit and then you find they fit.”

Haug forged a partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s fugitive apprehension team and set up surveillance on the home.

“The FBI was the biggest help on this case,” he said. “They offered up resources that we just don’t have. They offered facial recognition and posted the suspect on fugitive websites.

“It reassures us that we’re all on the same team.”

Federal agents set up a safe distance from the home for long-range surveillance.

The agents told Haug they saw men firing off weapons in front of the home, but couldn’t positively identify the suspect.

Winter came and surveillance halted.

The federal agents didn’t want to leave tracks in the snow and risk alerting the family to their presence.

“They had to wait until the snow melted to get back on it,” Haug said.

The Tustin detective and Army veteran kept working angles from his end and overseeing progress of the investigation.

Haug tracked down other family members and collected intel, funneling it to the federal agents who were watching the Zukowsky home.

Haug then made plans to fly out to Colorado to help apprehend Zukowsky.

They were getting close to an arrest, but car stops by the federal agents put the Zukowsky family on notice that police had not forgotten them.

“I think that shook the case up a little bit,” Haug said. “Shortly after the car stops, the suspect went and got an attorney and turned himself in.”

Zukowsky, now 33, pleaded not guilty in October to felony rape of an unconscious person and sodomy.

Several drug charges that were felonies at the time of his first arrest have been downgraded to misdemeanors after Proposition 47 changed the rules on what constitutes a felony drug charge.

Zukowsky is due in court for a pretrial Feb. 9.

Haug received the Case of the Year award at the annual police awards banquet in January hosted by the Tustin Police Officers Association, Tustin Police Support Services Association and the Tustin Police Foundation.

Tustin PD employees unanimously voted for his case to receive the honor.

“I appreciate it and I know I did a lot of work on it, but I didn’t want it put in for case of the year because I didn’t get to arrest him,” Haug said. “It’s a win that we got him in custody, but he deserved some Tustin handcuffs. It gives you closure.”