Mary Barnes noticed something unusual when she got home from work, but didn’t think much of it.

A window on the ground floor of her shared Newport Beach home had been left open wide enough that someone could step right in. She thought it was odd, but she didn’t see or hear anything unusual, so she went about the rest of her day.

The 53-year-old Florida transplant had recently moved in with her boyfriend in his cozy blue house a block away from the beach. He was out of town on business in Belize.

This is an award-winning story that Los Angeles Press Club judges called gripping, well-researched, and well told.