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When the thief is someone you love

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Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 12:00 am

"We got robbed Saturday afternoon," my professor friend sadly stated. "Stockton is becoming a colossal cornucopia of crime!"

The professor went on to say how he and his wife had been to a holiday party. When they returned home, part of his rare coin collection was missing. Some were acquired over 40 years ago. Thousands of dollars in mint-condition pieces had disappeared.

"Did you have the alarm on?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "But it doesn't work on the second story. They came in through my son's bedroom window."

"Didn't you have your collection in a safe?" I enquired.

"Most of it. But I was reorganizing and labeling part of it. I didn't think we would get hit in our neighborhood."

"What did the cops say?"

"Not much," he said. "They just took a report and left. That's about all they do now in this town. I'll probably never see those pieces again."

The conversation began to stimulate my curiosity — especially since nothing else in the house was taken or disturbed. I put on my imaginary Lt. Columbo raincoat and began to probe:

"Did your son go with you to the party?"

"No, he backed out at the last minute. He said he wasn't feeling well and was going to his girlfriend's for care. Her mother's a nurse, you know."

After several more questions, I presented my conclusions. The evidence seemed more than sufficient that his 17-year-old son, "Carl," was responsible for the burglary. Just to name a few points: the convenient "illness," the timing of the caper, knowledge about the alarm system and knowing that the coins were unsecured, all added up to an inside job.

There were other issues as well. One involved money that had been missing over the last several weeks from various locations in the home. This usually is a sign of a drug abuser — either living in, or having access to the residence.

"It can't be!" my friend lamented. "We've been the best parents we can be for our son. He was raised with high moral values. He's been a strong member of our church youth group. You know, your conclusions don't 'prove' he's guilty. It's all circumstantial!"

"I understand this is difficult to accept," was my only answer.

I felt his incredible emotional devastation when confronted by my pointed conclusions. Years earlier, I had suffered a similar fate with a family member. I could see years of faith, trust and love for his son shutting down like a dying heartbeat.

Weeks later, Carl confessed to the robbery. He had "fenced" the coins to gang members for a small fraction of their assessed value. He also admitted to using the money for illicit drugs but claimed he was now "clean" — a fact yet to be proven.

Needless to say, father and son are now estranged. Renewing their former bond and trust may be impossible.

The tragedy of this story is not unique to one house. Hundreds of these tales are happening each and every day. No one is ever immune by social or economic status.

It is especially painful when victims are betrayed by family members, neighbors and friends.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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