MARYSVILLE — Detective Terry Haldeman has been busting car thieves for years.
Last week, though, was the first time he tracked down some crooks because of a few flower pots.
Haldeman is a Snohomish County sheriff’s detective assigned to the Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force. Last week, he was working a case involving a 2007 Ford F-450 flat-bed.
The truck had been stolen from the Marysville parks department earlier this month. At the time of the theft, the truck bed was filled with 14 decorative baskets of petunias.
The flower baskets were to adorn the Highway 529 bridge, welcoming visitors to last weekend’s Strawberry Festival, city officials said.
The thieves also broke into a city storage shed and made off with weed eaters, chain saws and other equipment. A bulletin about the theft went out to cops all over the county.
Lake Stevens police detective Jerad Wachtveitl found the truck in the area of 119th Drive SE, just east of the lake.
He called Haldeman.
The investigation took Haldeman to a home along 123rd Avenue SE, a few blocks away.
He found tire tracks at the property that resembled those left by a F-450, he said.
“As I was driving in, I immediately saw six of the described potted plants that were stolen from Marysville,” he said. “Six of the potted plants were there as if laid out for decoration. One was on a stump, and the others were in front of the house.”
The house belongs to the mother of a suspect in the case, Haldeman said.
At the property, police recovered nine of the stolen plants, a $20,000 tractor that had been stolen almost a year ago from a Marysville home, a stolen utility trailer and a 2013 Dodge Dart that been stolen from Edmonds. They also found Marysville’s stolen parks equipment.
Detectives have identified several suspects, and the investigation is ongoing, Haldeman said.
The flower baskets were returned to Marysville on Thursday, just in time for Strawberry Festival, city parks director Jim Ballew said.
First, though, city staff received a cellphone picture from the cops, asking if the flowers were theirs, he said.
“It was a laughable moment,” Ballew said. “(The suspect) had those hanging baskets adorning the pathway to his house. He didn’t even take the frames off.”
City staff were grateful and happy to get the baskets back, Ballew said.
“We were assured that they’d find this stuff, and they did,” he said.
The city has ordered replacements for the five baskets still missing, Ballew said. They’re expected to arrive next week.
Meanwhile, Haldeman and fellow auto-theft task force detective Eric Fagan happened to be driving northbound on I-5 the day after the plants were returned, Haldeman said.
From the freeway, they could see the baskets hanging on the new bridge.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org