First, the door was unlocked and some unusual lights were on.

Then, Brittney Heinzman realized her bags weren’t hanging in the doorway of her Irvine apartment, where they normally would.

She tried to brush it off. Maybe she was just jetlagged from her flight home, or perhaps she had been in more of a rush to leave for Thanksgiving than she remembered.

But then Heinzman noticed the TV was gone from her bedroom dresser. And there was a stray espresso cup in her shower.

She ran to her closet to see what else might be missing — only to find a woman cowering in the corner, clutching kitchen utensils, including a pizza cutter.

Heinzman remembered screaming.

The woman left, and in less than 48 hours she was behind bars for what police have described as a burglary carried out in multiple trips, and possibly over several days.

Wendy Wilkinson, a resident of the same apartment complex, is accused of stealing at least $30,000 worth of items from Heinzman’s apartment while her neighbor was out of town — including designer handbags, sunglasses, two TVs, credit cards and her passport, according to Kyle Oldoerp, a spokesperson for the Irvine Police Department.

Wilkinson, who officers found hiding in her own closet, was booked Dec. 3 on suspicion of burglary and possession of stolen items, Oldoerp said.

“We are unable to confirm exactly how many times she went into the apartment,” Oldoerp said. “It’s more than likely she went in multiple times. … It’s possible she was going back and forth between her apartment.”

It’s that possibility that has Heinzman most on edge.

“Knowing that someone was in my place, multiple times — you don’t know if they were in your bed,” Heinzman said, tearing up.

The 35-year-old continues to find more items gone from her apartment. But what’s missing most is her sense of security.

Five purses that were taken from the apartment of Brittney Heinzman.

Purses that were taken from the apartment of Brittney Heinzman.

(Irvine Police Department)

“This woman didn’t just want handbags, she didn’t just want a TV — she wanted my identity,” Heinzman said. “That’s the part that makes your stomach feel so sick.”

Heinzman, who works in software sales, said she knows all those stolen items — while valuable — are replaceable. But she’s struggling with unanswered questions, as well as how to move forward after finding a stranger in her home.

Oldoerp said there were no signs of forced entry, but Heinzman said she knows she locked her apartment door when she left. Police say they found items stolen from Heinzman’s apartment in Wilkinson’s apartment, car and an off-site storage unit.

Heinzman said she moved to the Skyloft Apartments on Main Street, touted as a luxury complex, for increased security. But she said that promise has fallen short. It was a neighbor’s front-door camera that caught footage of the suspect, not building security cameras, police said.

“There’s just no security at this building,” Heinzman said. “I moved out of L.A. into a safer place … [but] it’s like smoke and mirrors.”

Representatives from Skyloft and Legacy Partners, the real estate firm that manages the property, did not respond to a request for comment.

Heinzman hasn’t felt safe enough to stay in her apartment since she came home from her weeklong trip to visit family over Thanksgiving. She said she worries for her neighbors as well.

Wilkinson was arrested and charged in two other burglaries in 2021, court records show. However she was not convicted in either case, as they were were diverted through a mental health pretrial program, according to Orange County court records. Wilkinson remains in jail on $150,000 bail, court records show.

Heinzman said she needs to find a new place to live for her peace of mind. She had only moved into Skyloft seven months ago.

“To this day, I’m realizing more and more stuff that’s gone,” Heinzman said. “I just invested all this money into this place, I loved my place, and then the mental part of it — you don’t sleep, you have this image in your mind of this person standing in your closet.”

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