EVERETT — In more than 20 years on the job, the Everett police sergeant never had encountered a burglary scene quite like the one left behind at historic Normanna Hall in early January.
Whoever was responsible took their time in the brick building where Scandinavian heritage has been celebrated for more than 60 years.
It was callous. The contents on shelves and desktops were dumped and strewn. Drawers were emptied, doors kicked in, cabinets pried open. All was left in disarray.
“The mess made the floor completely covered and they were piled so high it was difficult to walk,” an Everett detective wrote in a search warrant.
It’s still hard for Normanna Lodge No. 3 president JoAnn Molver to comprehend. Why, she wonders, would anyone want to hurt a nonprofit organization that’s best known in many circles for its monthly pancake breakfast fundraiser?
“It just breaks your heart,” she said. “They went through every nook and cranny. It was very malicious.”
A paltry sum was stolen from a change dispenser. That much was obvious. It proved harder to tell what else might be missing because of the enormous mess.
Two other burglaries in downtown Everett mirrored the first.
On Jan. 25, the Big Apple Casino on Everett Avenue was ransacked. A cash register and betting machines were broken into. At least $1,200 was stolen. Again, paperwork was tossed like rubbish.
Three days later, police were called to the Central Lutheran Church at 2702 Rockefeller Ave. to look for clues after another break-in.
“It’s a sense of violation,” The Rev. Jeff Russell said. “The police were kind of astonished by the mess.”
What bothered Russell the most was what happened to the contents of one of the drawers in his office. It contained 25 years’ worth of notes he’d taken from family members who had lost moms and dads, sisters and brothers. All those papers were tossed across the floor.
“It is very personal when you are walking a family through the death of a loved one,” he said. “It just felt like stepping on those people and that work.”
Detectives believe the burglar must have spent considerable time inside the church because a heavy-duty safe was forced open. The thief didn’t get much before leaving the building in shambles.
Parishioners offered a prayer for whoever was responsible.
Everett police now believe they have caught the culprit.
A detective and officer with the department’s burglary reduction team spotted an Everett man, 47, in front of a church in the 2600 block of Lombard Avenue the night after the Central Lutheran Church break-in. The man wore dark clothing and gloves and was carrying a bag. When they stopped and tried to talk to him, the man ran before he was nabbed.
It turned out he had a long criminal record and multiple warrants out for his arrest.
Inside his bag, police found the deed, title and several other old documents from the church as well items missing from the casino. Police also found two bags containing methamphetamine.
The suspect has eight felony convictions dating back to a first-degree robbery in Snohomish County from 1988. He’s also been convicted of more than two dozen misdemeanors.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, email@example.com.