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Burglaries targeting grieving families
POULSBO — Authorities have identified a string of burglaries they believe are victimizing grieving families.
This week, the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office began investigation the fifth burglary since August. Each matches what police have identified as a clear pattern: Thieves are targeting the homes of those related to recently deceased, most likely choosing them after a scan of listed obituaries. In four of the five cases items were stolen and some homes were ransacked; in one case the thief was surprised to find a family member still in the residence.
"Taking a look at this we started noticing a trend," said Kitsap County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Deputy Scott Wilson. He said authorities are now urging citizens not to leave their homes unattended while at funeral or memorial services, and to report any suspicious activity.
The most recently discovered addition to the list of victims is South Kitsap's James and Stephanie Fargo, who returned home Aug. 6 from Stephanie's mother's funeral to discover jewelry, computers, a television and tools missing.
"It was a shock that somebody else would come violate your home," James said. Included among the missing items was his late mother-in-law's wedding ring he and his wife hadn't yet been able to place in a safety deposit box.
The loss reportedly added up to several thousand dollars, and nothing yet has been recovered. Robberies targeting people already hurting are "a bigger problem than a lot of people are aware of," James said. "My thought is, I wouldn't want to kill 'em, but I'd like to break their knee caps."
Kingston resident Michael Welch returned from his mother's funeral Aug. 13 to discover doors of his home open and his truck and gun safe gone. He, too, said the realization was shocking.
Welch's truck was later found abandoned in Bremerton, but his family heirloom firearms and mint collection of coins from the 1880s haven't been recovered. He estimated the loss at between $15,000 and $20,000.
"Obviously they picked my name out of the obits," Welch said. After reading news coverage of more recent robberies, he realized his case matched the others. "I'm going, 'Hey, that's us, that's exactly what happened.'"
Welch said he's since installed an alarm system on his home.
Two of the other cases occurred in North Kitsap; one other in South Kitsap. The most recent break-in was in the home of a 67-year-old Poulsbo man, who returned Oct. 17 from his wife's funeral to find rooms ransacked and a quarter collection, $2,000 worth of guns and the box that had contained his wife's urn stolen.
"We certainly do not recommend that they eliminate (submitting an obituary)," Wilson added. "It's part of the grieving process."
He said it is a good idea to have a friend, neighbor or work colleague watch over an otherwise empty home while services are occurring.