Alleged metal thief nabbed

EVERETT — Police in Everett believe they have caught up with a man responsible for stealing more than two dozen car emission devices for their precious metals.

His quarry was catalytic converters on the undercarriages of cars and pickup trucks, according to allegations spelled out in a police affidavit. Each converter contains tiny bits of platinum and palladium, which fetch a hefty profit on the scrap metal market. They’re used to clean up exhaust.

Michael Heuslein, 40, allegedly bragged to police that he could steal the converters in seconds. The Marysville man also reportedly claimed that he taught his girlfriend how to steal them and even bought her a reciprocating saw to commit the crimes.

“We believe this suspect is a prolific catalytic converter thief,” Everett police officer Aaron Snell said. “We will work with local law enforcement agencies to continue the investigation.”

Heuslein reportedly admitted to up to 30 catalytic converter thefts in Everett, Bellevue, Mill Creek, Tukwila and Seatac International Airport. Police believe the number is much higher.

In Everett alone, police received reports of 29 catalytic converter thefts between May 2, the day the suspect was released from jail, and June 24 when he was arrested. For a week in the middle of that stretch, Everett had no catalytic converter thefts. During that time, the man was in the Marysville City Jail.

On June 10, a car owner allegedly caught Heuslein attempting to steal a catalytic converter beneath his vehicle in the 7600 block of Evergreen Way. The suspect ran through a department store nearby and got away, but his face was caught on surveillance video.

Police estimate the average cost to replace a catalytic converter is about $2,000. That left car owners and insurance companies with a bill of roughly $58,000 to both replace the devices and repair damage to the vehicles.

All told, police estimate the suspect has caused more than $100,000 damage in Everett alone, according to a probable cause statement for his arrest. More than 50 catalytic coverters were stolen in the city since November.

He is being held on $100,000 bail in the Snohomish County Jail. Police and prosecutors pressed for a high amount.

Detectives had been interested in Heuslein in a series of catalytic converter thefts more than a year ago. Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies asked Everett police to hold off because Heuslein was believed to have information that could be used in a homicide investigation.

Heuslein allegedly made statements to an acquaintance that he helped move and bury parts of a north county man believed to have been killed by his wife in 2004, according to court papers.

Michele L. Donohue, 48, is accused of fatally stabbing her husband, Byron Wright, 53, dismembering his body and burying his remains nearly a decade ago. Some time later, her new husband and his two buddies allegedly dug up Wright’s body and buried him under a shop floor. She was charged in March with second-degree domestic violence murder.

Detectives in December began investigating Wright’s disappearance after receiving a tip from a confidential informant that Wright’s body was hidden on the property, located on Wade Road, between Marysville and Arlington.

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

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