An inmate at the Snohomish County Jail told detectives he knew who was responsible for a string of obituary-related burglaries because the suspects had bragged about their methods, according to court papers.
The tip has helped police recover some of the missing loot.
Now, some Snohomish County families have renewed hope of getting back possessions stolen while they attended funerals of loved ones.
The inmate came forward with information after reading in The Herald about the March 23 burglary at the Marysville home of John and Danutsia Burgy, according to a search warrant. The couple came home from the funeral of John Burgy's mother to discover someone had stolen two safes. The strongboxes contained hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry, gold, watches, firearms and critical paperwork that included deeds and family wills.
Family treasures also were gone, including the strip of cloth from the uniform Danutsia's father's wore in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. The scrap included his identification number.
Police on Friday identified Corey Arendt, 20, and Tyler Chase, 31, as suspects in the burglaries. They remained at large Tuesday and should be considered armed and dangerous, officials said. Police believe the men drove off some time Thursday evening in a rented black 2011 Chevrolet Impala with Oregon license plate 376ETA.
The inmate at the jail told detectives that before his arrest he had been at Arendt's home in the Lake Stevens area where he saw large TVs, laptops, computer and tall standing jewelry boxes.
He said the pair bragged about sitting in Arendt's home browsing obituaries online, court papers said. They explained to him how they would research surviving family members and locate local addresses for the survivors.
The pair would wait near the homes on the days of the funerals and watch for grieving families to leave, he told detectives.
One of the suspects was "very good at picking locks," the inmate said.
The inmate's information was used to establish probable cause for a search warrant of a home in the 14800 block of 70th Place NE in the unincorporated Lake Stevens area where items matching the some of the loot taken in the obituary burglaries were found.
Marysville police Lt. Darin Rasmussen said Tuesday that officers have recovered some of the Burgys' jewelry. Thieves had pawned it at a Lynnwood business.
The inmate implicated Arendt and Chase in at least five burglaries, including one in Granite Falls, court papers said. In the Granite Falls case, a couple left their home to attend their daughter's funeral on March 21. They locked their doors and set an alarm. It sounded when intruders broke in, but the burglars still took jewelry, a tall standing jewelry box and a .357-caliber Magnum firearm.
The sheriff's office is now investigating seven obituary-related burglaries, court papers said. Marysville police have just one, the Burgy home.
David Lovelass of Sultan believes his family might be a victim of obit-perusing burglars.
"This is really sick," he said, describing the string of burglaries involving the homes of mourning families.
His father, John Lovelass, died in February.
Someone broke into his dad's home near the edge of Sultan city limits Feb. 25 while family was at the funeral.
The family discovered that a silver tea set, flatware and plates were taken, as were dozens of pairs of earrings, a 1950s men's jewelry case and old coins.
Two other stolen items particularly bother David Lovelass.
One was a Taurus handgun his father wanted to give to his daughter. She already had packed it in her luggage, which was rummaged through.
The other item?
A Regina carpet steam cleaner from a closet.
"Come on, a carpet steam cleaner?" he said.
Sheriff's Lt. Robert Palmer said Tuesday it was unknown whether the Lovelass burglary was connected to the others.
Palmer said he understands the sadness many burglary victims face.
"It's not just about the dollar value of items lost," he said.
"What crushes their soul is the family heirlooms or that memento from a trip or with a personal story that may not have monetary value but can't be replaced," he said.
The Marysville Police Department continues to look for tips, Rasmussen said.
Anyone with information is asked Marysville Sgt. Doug Lee at 360-363-8315.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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