Origins: It's been rumored that thieves scan the obituary and wedding announcements to see which house to hit. Far from a baseless anxiety, this does indeed happen. Here's a fine 1996 article about how a pair of thieves worked this system:
The sisters, police said, specialized in burglaries from homes of vacationers, honeymooners and deceased persons after careful perusal of newspaper death notices and society pages.
In a black book, the sisters listed the names, addresses and phone numbers of potential victims, officers said, and indicated probability of
Detectives said they had "cleared" more than 40 residential burglaries with the arrest last week of
"But we still have a whole storeroom of loot and we've received calls from more than 300 persons who think they may have been victims of the sisters,"
"They used some of their loot to go to Las Vegas one weekend where Jean won $1,500," Bartlett's partner, Vern Faulstich, said.
The officers have marveled over the theft of some of the stolen articles, considering the frail appearance of the two women. Discovered among the loot were color television sets and floor safes. Police said the sisters began their operation last July.
Both wore slacks and sneakers when they appeared Tuesday in the courtroom of Municipal Judge John F. Hassler, the same costumes which, officers said, they used in their burglaries. They sat expressionless during the court proceedings.
The sisters were held to answer on three counts of burglary and one of grand theft. Judge Hassler set their bail at $5,000 each and their arraignment in Superior Court
The sheriff in Reno, Nevada, calls the burglaries a "horrific type of crime" targeting the elderly when they are most vulnerable.
Besides stealing tens of thousands of dollars in collectibles, jewelry, guns, heirlooms and silver dinnerware, detectives say the suspects inflicted added emotional turmoil by ransacking the homes.
Investigators believe 19-year-old Richard Charles Hery was a key player in at least seven such break-ins that occurred in southwest Reno from early April through May. They say six other similar burglaries are under investigation, and there could be more.
Hery was arrested in Tucson. Police say they received a tip that similar crimes were being planned there.
In one of the five Platte County cases Johnson was convicted of, a man was at a funeral for his wife while Johnson burglarized his home.
"It's hard to imagine a more cruel and heartless burglary scheme than this one," Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said. "Picking out a home to break into because the owner is at a funeral reveals a complete lack of any conscience whatsoever. Dane Johnson deserves every year he will spend in prison."
Last updated: 6 July 2011
Associated Press. "3 Arrested in Obit Bandit Caper." azcentral.com. 18 July 2007. Associated Press. "'Funeral Day Burglar' Found Guilty of 10 Counts in Mo." azcentral.com. 9 May 2008. Los Angeles Times. "Log Kept, Police Say — 'Obituary' Thefts Charted Carefully in 'Black Book.'" 30 November 1996.