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Pair arrested in theft of Keating’s car

Brothers had long record of break-ins, authorities say

Christopher Babij (left) and his brother, Kenneth, in Quincy District Court yesterday. Christopher Babij (left) and his brother, Kenneth, in Quincy District Court yesterday. (Gregg Derr/ Associated Press/ Pool)
By Milton J. Valencia and John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / March 30, 2011

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QUINCY — It seemed to be the perfect opportunity — the keys to a black Lexus and the car right there for the taking, in the quiet of night with no one around.

But, it turned out, this of all cars was the wrong one to steal.

Two brothers were charged yesterday with the theft of the 2001 Lexus RX300 of US Representative William R. Keating, who — after leaving the keys in another car — resorted to his law enforcement instincts and quickly called 911, allowing police to swiftly track down the vehicle.

Keating could be heard on the 911 call reporting the theft just after 2:45 a.m., saying it happened moments earlier.

“I was awakened by the start of the car . . . you might have a good chance of getting to them,’’ he told a police dispatcher.

Keating, who served as Norfolk district attorney for 14 years before his election to the US House in the fall, said in an interview later yesterday that he regretted that the keys were left in the other car, but was grateful police made an arrest and that the Lexus was returned.

“These things happen in real life and we should just be grateful the police are there to help us,’’ he said. “The keys were accessible, unfortunately — that’s another lesson learned.’’

As it turned out, the two alleged car thieves are well known to authorities, and have a history of breaking into cars and homes, according to court records.

Christopher J. Babij, 25, a career burglar, and his brother, Kenneth, 20, who police say is a heroin addict, were arraigned in Quincy District Court yesterday, charged with breaking and entering and larceny. Prosecutors say the two stole Keating’s car and a GPS device from a Keating family member’s Ford. The elder brother, the alleged getaway driver, was also charged with driving without a license.

Christopher Babij pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $2,500 cash bail. Prosecutors are also seeking to revoke his probation for a house burglary in Milton last year. In that case, he was caught with jewelry taken from the home and was sentenced to nine months in jail in August. He was released weeks ago and the balance of the sentence was suspended while he served probation.

He also served six months in jail for an attempted house break-in in Quincy in 2009, and faces similar charges in Wrentham and Fall River courts.

The younger Babij was charged last year with similar crimes in Middleborough, but those charges were dismissed because of legal technicalities, officials said yesterday.

Authorities said that Kenneth Babij has a grave heroin addiction, and he was sent yesterday to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation. He did not enter a plea pending the evaluation.

A court-appointed physician said the younger brother has been addicted to opiates since he was 16, and that for the past several months he has been taking about 3 grams of heroin intravenously a day.

The brothers said nothing during the court proceedings yesterday.

Police say that the men may have broken into the Ford to steal the GPS device and then found the keys to the Lexus. After the arrest, Quincy police allege they found the GPS device, as well as another owned by Keating in a backpack in the Lexus.

The congressman told authorities he heard a car engine start, looked out his window, and then noticed the Lexus was gone. Within minutes of the 911 call, police spotted the vehicle on Hancock Street and followed it into a McDonald’s parking lot. Christopher Babij rolled down the window and threw the keys out, according to police reports. He told authorities the car was a rental, according to the reports.

Keating said that he initially thought the noise he heard came from a neighbor.

Keating, a Democrat, moved to Quincy from Sharon last year when he sought the 10th Congressional District seat. Sharon is not in his district.

He said yesterday that he is confident his successor, Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey, would prosecute the case efficiently.

Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com and John Ellement at ellement@globe.com.

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