Alleged burglars left trail of 50-cent pieces, cops say

MONROE — It appears two suspects in the burglary of a Monroe mattress and bedding store each unwittingly helped detectives solve the case.

The break-in occurred March 30 at the Quality Sleep shop in the 19600 block of U.S. 2, according to Monroe Police Department records.

Police responded to an alarm after one of the glass doors was broken to gain entry. The till had been emptied.

The first tip that aided police occurred that night when an employee, 21, called the store’s owner to say a customer bought a mattress shortly before closing time. He reported that the transaction was unusual in that the buyer paid $220 toward the bill using 50-cent pieces. The customer put the rest on a credit card.

Whoever stole from the store that night hauled away the coins.

That gave police a solid lead.

Investigators called Coinstar, which operates bright green, coin-to-cash machines in supermarket kiosks across the country. The popular machines turn loose change into vouchers that can be redeemed for cash.

Coinstar’s records showed a payout for a large number of 50-cent pieces at a QFC in Woodinville, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said. It occurred about an hour after the burglary was reported.

Video footage from the grocery store helped identify one of the suspects. He was the mattress store employee who told his boss about the purchase using half-dollar pieces.

Police weren’t sure who was with the man, but that person’s image was captured on surveillance footage at the grocery store.

That mystery was solved when the mattress store employee was asked to come in to the police station for a follow-up interview Tuesday.

He was accompanied by two friends. One — a Bothell man, 23 — seemed familiar to investigators.

“The officers had already seen the surveillance footage and they looked at the guy and recognized him,” Willis said.

During the interviews, each man confessed, saying they split their coin windfall, Willis said.

Both were arrested for investigation of second-degree burglary.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

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