Obituaries, Google Maps Used to Burglarize Metro Homes

Updated: 10/10/2012 10:54 AM KSTP.com By: Mitch Pittman

An investigation into a truly heartless crime is expanding. Police throughout the metro area are looking into a string of burglaries that have one disturbing theme in common: criminals looking up homes to break into by going through the obituaries.

Colleen Beard, 62, had been laid to rest for less than a day before police say John Contreras, 24, and Jeffrey Lanceman, 42, broke into Beard's St. Paul home on September 25.

Police reports outline how Contreras would search online for obituaries, then use Google Maps to scope out homes.

"It's just heart breaking to not only lose your mother, but to face this awful tragedy," said of of Beard's neighbors who has been in contact with the family. The neighbor didn't want to give her name, but said the thought of someone doing such a thing sickens her.

"It was a planned evil, to take a family who's grieving, by looking at their obituary and planning to rob their home, that's just really just a special sort of evil."

The police report says the two broke in early in the morning and took a silver bar, electronics, and jewelry. Contreras' girlfriend was noted as telling police he did this to finance his meth addiction and time at the casino.

Some of the items were recovered when the two were arrested, but others had already been pawned.

Contreras and Lanceman now face second degree burglary charges, which could carry up to 10 years. What's more, police say this is not the only time these two have done this. They're facing similar charges in Anoka and Hennepin counties.

There are three cases police are looking into now, but police tell KSTP it's likely they will find even more.

While this is uncommon, it's not the first time police have seen crooks use obits to find victims. They say you can call the police and ask for extra patrols, but it's also very important to tell your neighbors to keep an extra close eye out on the house.