Burglary ring leader sentenced to 3 1/2 years

  • Mon Sep 10th, 2012 6:46pm
  • News

By Eric Stevick Herald Writer

EVERETT — In the end, the prosecutor and defendant could agree on one thing: Tyler Chase ought to be ashamed.

The Lake Stevens man was the leader of a burglary ring that invaded homes left empty while their occupants attended family funerals

He apologized to his victims during his sentencing Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court.

“I am ashamed of myself,” Chase said. “These were despicable crimes.”

He’d get no argument from his victims. Nor from Judge George Bowden who handed down a 3 1/2-year prison term, the maximum allowed under state sentencing guidelines.

Chase, 32, and other burglars scoured funeral information that appeared in newspaper obituaries to find their victims.

Ten residential burglaries were identified as being part of this scheme, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson wrote in court papers.

Four other people have been arrested for investigation of related allegations, such as possessing stolen property. That included co-defendant Michelle Herrera, who was given a prison term of 2½ years, also the maximum she could receive.

Chase admitted to breaking into two homes and possessing or selling loot from four others.

John and Danutsia Burgy were among his victims.

Chase acknowledged that he possessed and sold property belonging to the Burgys. The Marysville couple were attending a funeral for John Burgy’s mother March 23 when someone broke into their home and stole two safes and valuables worth roughly $400,000.

The most precious item to the couple, though, was a piece of the uniform Danutsia Burgy’s father, a Polish resistance fighter, was forced to wear as a Nazi prisoner at the Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II.

The tan fabric was stenciled with his prisoner identification number.

Herrera told a detective that the cloth was flushed down a toilet.

Danutsia Burgy told the judge Monday that she can no longer fulfill a promise she made to her father, who lives in Seattle, of making sure the cloth was passed down to future generations.

Other family heirlooms — jewelry, documents, an ancient coin dating back to the times of Alexander the Great — are gone, too.

“Every item had a story, a legacy,” she said.

John Burgy described Chase as “the consummate predator” who singled out the “weak and defenseless.”

The crimes created community outrage — a collective fear that reminded him of a time in the 1990s when he was Everett’s fire marshal and arsonist Paul Keller was setting fires in and beyond Snohomish County, John Burgy said.

Several of Burgy’s firearms are missing and he fears they have been sold or traded to felons, keeping the crime rippling through the community.

The Burgys said they lost much more than treasured possessions. They were stripped of memories and a sense of security.

“He has turned our lives completely upside down,” John Burgy said.

Defense attorney Donald Wackerman asked the court to give his defendant an alternative sentencing that would send him to prison, but also provide drug treatment. Chase started using drugs at the age of 15 and his addiction has cost him a decent-paying job as a roofer, a marriage and time with his child.

“There is a chance to make something positive out of this,” Wackerman said.

In apologizing, Chase said he is ashamed.

“There is nothing I can do to take back these acts,” he said. “There is nothing I can do to make things right.”

Judge Bowden said he hopes Chase will get drug treatment, but he needed to be sentenced to the maximum.

“In this case, I think accountability has to be the order of the day,” the judge said.

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