MONROE — The middle-aged woman seemed convincing enough as she stood in the driveway of a home on Chain Lake Road.
She dressed in nice clothes one might wear to work.
She explained to the man who stopped to question her that she was looking for someone, then she drove away from the Monroe neighborhood in a Dodge Charger with Oregon license plates.
Only after she had disappeared that October day did the man discover some of his relatives’ belongings piled up outside the back of the house.
A check inside revealed several expensive watches, two firearms and other items were missing.
Police said the woman burglar was both professional and disarming.
“She was able to convince the witness that she belonged there,” Monroe police Sgt. Ryan Irving said.
Police believe the woman, 44, has left more than 20 victims in the lurch from Puyallup to Monroe. On Friday, they arrested Michelle T. Moyer for investigation of more than two dozen counts of possessing stolen property, identity theft and financial fraud.
What stands out to police is how the woman comported herself when she was spotted on peoples’ property, including some back yards. She never seemed to panic and always had a plausible explanation. In more than one instance, she was accompanied by her dog named Boo. Police said she’d use the laptop-sized pooch as part of a ruse.
“She has a story ahead of time,” Irving said. “She has this thought-out story and she is believable.”
The description of the silver late-model Dodge Charger with Oregon plates was a starting point for Monroe police who correctly guessed that the car was a rental.
On Oct. 10, the day after the Chain Lake Road burglary, officer Nate Erdmann drove by a rental car office in downtown Monroe. He spotted a car matching the description given by the witness.
Company officials told police that a woman with a Missouri address rented the car Sept. 20 in Seattle but failed to return when it was due three days later. The name of the woman renting the car was Michelle Moyer. The company had reported it stolen. It was dropped off in Monroe shortly after the Chain Lake break-in.
The investigation revealed that the suspect also had an expired Washington driver’s license with an Everett address and that she’d been booked into the Snohomish County Jail in March for investigation of possessing and trafficking in stolen property. Monroe police obtained the booking photo.
The witness from Chain Lake Road picked Moyer’s photo from a group of pictures.
Monroe officers learned that Bothell police had contact with Moyer and a man with an extensive criminal history at a motel in mid September. The case yielded two more useful nuggets of information: the license plate to a pickup truck and a Monroe area address.
Monroe police also learned that the woman recently bought a motor home. When police drove by the Monroe address, they noticed the pickup truck and a motor home.
The next day, Monroe police tailed the woman and a man she was with to Shoreline. He was doing yard maintenance at a home, using what police believe was stolen equipment.
Both were detained. Drugs were found.
Back at the Monroe property where the pair had been staying, police recovered laptops, electronics equipment, more than 100 pieces of jewelry, credit cards, identification cards, firearms, pawn shop slips and checks that were believed stolen. The goods are believed to be worth tens of thousands of dollars, Irving said.
Two of the firearms recovered were from the Chain Lake Road home.
“We have identified 20-plus other victims,” Irving said.
The burglaries occurred during the day when people were at work.
In some cases, police called people who didn’t know they had been theft victims.
At the heart of the investigation was the Sky Valley Enforcement Team, a group of officers who target crime in Monroe and the surrounding areas.
“One of the philosophies behind the team is criminals cross boundaries and we have a team in place that will cross those boundaries and follow those trails,” police department spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org