Many happy returns: Theft victims reclaim their goods

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 19, 2012 - 9:33 PM

After more than 30 suburban homes were burglarized, investigators made a pair of arrests. Now comes the task of returning property to owners.

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Ramsey Police Chief Jim Way looked over some of the recovered items his department tried to reunite with their owners. Two burglary suspects were arrested last month. “With no serial numbers, it’s tough to get stuff back. But we’re trying,” he said.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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The autographs on the baseball -- including Mickey Mantle's and Yogi Berra's -- have faded, but the memory hadn't.

John Sanders' 51-year-old baseball was just one of several hundred items stolen by burglars believed to have broken into more than 30 homes in eight Twin Cities communities in recent weeks. They took jewelry, TV sets, military records, laptops, hunting knives, even marbles -- items the victims were shocked to see Monday after being summoned to the Ramsey police station to retrieve what many thought was lost forever.

"There were almost 500 pieces of jewelry alone," said Ramsey Police Chief James Way. "With no serial numbers, it's tough to get stuff back. But we're trying."

When a man and a woman were arrested in Ramsey on Halloween, investigators found several pieces of jewelry strewn around their vehicles, including items thought to have been stolen from homes in Ramsey, Coon Rapids, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Elk River, Big Lake, Dayton and Anoka. Jerried Curtis, 35, has been charged with first-degree burglary, with bail set at $100,000. The woman has yet to be charged.

Jerseys, jewelry, guitar

Recent theft victims were notified by authorities and told to come to the Ramsey police station Monday and Tuesday. There, they could examine tagged stolen property placed on tables throughout a large room. It was like a reverse silent auction -- where the browsers were anything but quiet as they gasped, sobbed and identified their belongings as officers from Hennepin County, Coon Rapids and Ramsey assisted.

There were two Brett Favre jerseys (home and away), a toy helicopter, space heaters, a $2 bill, class rings, hockey cards, a guitar, remote controls, old coins, pillowcases and athletic shoes.

Sanders, 64, of Coon Rapids, held his baseball while his wife, Gail Owens, 61, searched for her father's pocket watch and marble collection and items from her mother's hope chest.

"My father and I were near the old Radisson Hotel in Bloomington in 1961, going to a Twins-Yankees game the first year the Twins were here when we saw Yogi Berra walking down the street," Sanders said. "I was 12. We went to Dayton's, bought a baseball and went to the hotel lobby and got most of the team to sign it. My father and I were so proud of that."

Ted Nagorski, 60, said he returned to his home in Big Lake Township last month and noticed that his gun cabinet was open. No guns had been taken, but thieves got his military records and medals, jewelry, two TV sets, a Bose stereo system and his laptop. He is convinced the thieves were in the house when he arrived home.

"If I'd have caught them in the house, it would have been really nasty," he said.

Smashed windows, stolen car

In most cases, the thief or thieves broke into the rear of the homes, often smashing windows, and left through the front door, Ramsey Investigator Brad Bluml said of the day-time robberies. A stolen car, seen at the site of one of the burglaries, was found at the home of a relative of one of the suspects. When police checked records, they learned that she had made several trips to area pawn shops.

By the time investigators located some of the jewelry, sold to pawn shops in Coon Rapids and North Branch, metals had been cut and stones removed. An estimated $15,000 in jewelry was recovered at one Coon Rapids pawn shop, said Coon Rapids detective Chad Duckson.

Rebecca De Mers, 55, of Dayton, said thieves stole credit cards, her Social Security card and passport and titles to all her vehicles. When she located jewelry that had been her grandmother's, she began to cry.

"I didn't think I was going to see any of this again," she said.

Authorities will keep unclaimed merchandise for six to eight months before placing it with surplus property, Way said.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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