MERCER ISLAND — Police say obituary burglars hit twice on Sept. 17 — at one home on Mercer Island and another in Bothell as families from both attended the same funeral.
Ryan and Kristin live on Mercer Island and their home was burglarized while they were at Kristin’s grandfather’s funeral.
They asked that their last name be used.
“We came into the home and noticed immediately that things were taken and things were out of place and we looked into the back and saw that a window had been smashed through,” Ryan said.
“There was shattered glass everywhere. It just never would have occurred to me that at such a vulnerable time someone would take advantage of that,” Kristin said.
But police say that’s exactly what criminals do.
“It’s kind of an old scam but it tends to work,” Mercer Island police Cmdr. Leslie Burns said.
Their family agonized about whether to publish an obituary in the newspaper but then did because that’s what their grandfather would have wanted.
“My grandpa was 96 and his generation pores over those obituaries every day to see that their friends (are there) or not. He wasn’t on Facebook. He didn’t use a computer. It was a lot of money but it’s really important that his friends know,” Kristin said.
When they returned home, everything of value that could be easily carried away was gone.
“An iPad, two work computers, a personal computer, and external hard drive … jewelry were the most valuable things stolen,” Kristin said.
Ryan and Kristin suspected right away that they were victims of an obituary burglar and their suspicions were confirmed when they learned that Kristin’s parents’ home in Bothell was burglarized as well while they, too, were at the funeral.
“It was a thoughtful gesture to Kristin’s grandpa to put our families’ names in there and to give as much information as possible but we never suspected it would come at such a high cost to our family and Kristin’s family,” Ryan said.
Mercer Island police have seen this crime before, made easy because in obituaries criminals can find everything they need to know to pull off a burglary with very little risk.
“The bad guy goes to the newspaper and looks for funerals that are coming up and probably goes out and cases the area prior to the funeral and decides which houses they want to hit on which days,” Burns said.
Call it a lesson learned for Ryan and Kristin.
It was one of their worst days and absolutely the one of their best.
The night of the burglary, Kristin gave birth to their first child and that put things in perspective.
“We feel lucky we’ve got a healthy baby girl and she’s reminding us about what’s important — and that these were only things — and that we just have to be more careful in the future,” Ryan said.
Ryan and Kristin have since installed a new security system and they believe, as a society, people have to rethink publishing obituaries or at the very least omit names of those attending.
Police agree and say that may be the only way to stop these crimes.
Anyone with information should call 911.