Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thieves chose targets based on announced funeral times

3 accused of targeting victims through obits
Associated Press Writer
328 words
17 July 2007
(c) 2007. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A multistate investigation led to the arrest of three men suspected of using information in published obituaries to burglarize homes while grieving families attend services, Washoe County sheriff's officials said Tuesday.

Sheriff Mike Haley called the burglaries a "horrific type of crime" targeting the elderly when they are most vulnerable.

Besides stealing tens of thousands of dollars in collectibles, jewelry, guns, heirlooms and silver dinnerware, the suspects inflicted added emotional turmoil by ransacking the homes, detectives said.

In some cases, credits cards belonging to the deceased were stolen and used days later.

Investigators believe Richard Charles Hery, 19, was a key player in at least seven such break-ins that occurred in southwest Reno from early April through May. They said six other similar burglaries are under investigation, and there could be more.

Hery was arrested June 6 in Tucson.

Two others are charged in connection with the case, and detectives are trying to determine if they took part in carrying out the crimes.

Michael Drey was arrested May 17 for assault and rebooked on drug and stolen property charges while jailed. Justin Wayne Ford, 51, was arrested Monday on an unrelated warrant and possession of stolen property.

Authorities said all three have ties to the Reno area.

Investigators also have talked to a woman and her teenage daughter in Tucson about the case.

In each instance, Haley said bandits would read obituaries published in the newspaper, looking for clues about a person's interests to select their targets.

For example, noting someone was an avid hunter signals there are probably guns in the home, Haley said.

Detectives wouldn't reveal what information led them to focus on Hery. But they tracked him to Salt Lake City before he traveled to Arizona. He was arrested there after police were tipped that he was planning similar crimes in Tucson, Haley said.

1 comment:

Alana Baranick said...

Clever thieves have been using obituaries - both story form and paid notices - to plan their funeral capers for as long as I can remember. And believe me. I can remember many many years back.

They also apparently check for suggestions that the person had an illness for which they were prescribed heavy-duty painkillers - morphine and other drugs - that might still be on the premises.

I try to be careful when it comes to writing obits about folks who had extremely valuable collections of some kind - cars, antiques, baseball cards.

Whenever the collection is what made the person interesting enough to get the obit treatment, I ask the family what's become of the collection.

It's terrific when I can say that the deceased donated his fabulous collection of Model-T Fords to the automobile museum, sold the last of her Barbie dolls on Ebay or gave her rare books away to friends and family.