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Family Devastated After Funeral Thieves Strike

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- St. Paul Police have a warning about thieves who they say stole from the dead.

Investigators say Jeffrey Lanceman and John Contreras used newspaper obituaries to target homes of people who'd just died, breaking into their homes during their funeral.

Authorities say it happened in Ramsey, St. Paul, and possibly Edina.

WCCO-TV talked to the neighbor of a victim who sees this crime as a personal attack. Never did she imagine the nightmare that was happening in her deceased neighbor's home while the family was away at the funeral.

"What we learned now [the robbers] probably had a sheet or towel hung so you couldn't see what was going on," said the neighbor, who only gave her first name, Colleen.

The daughters of the victim came to their mother's house on Juliet Avenue in St. Paul to find it destroyed.

"They tossed the place," Colleen said.

She said the daughters were already devastated, and that the robbery was the ultimate insult to injury.

"The usual things that go with death, trying to identify belongings and important financial documents, then to come back to the home, and they had no idea what was missing," Colleen said.

St. Paul police Sargent Paul Paulos said the robbers would take anything that was left in the home.

Police say the criminals found their victims in the obituaries. Investigators say Lanceman and Contreras stole everything from wedding rings to TVs, but it was a laptop that led police to them. It had an IP security tracker installed and using the tracker's GPS, they were able to locate the burglars' address.

St. Paul Police say this type of crime is more common than you'd think. They say as a precaution, call your local police department and notify neighbors when a loved one dies and their home is empty.

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