PARKERSBURG - Thieves took advantage of residents' grieving the loss of a relative by burglarizing their home during the funeral.
Molly Rager said relatives returned from her uncle's funeral Wednesday morning to find the front door kicked open and items missing from the ransacked house. Rager and others had been at the funeral of her uncle, Michael Cunningham, who passed away earlier this week.
"It happened in broad daylight. It was horrid," she said.
She said they used a crowbar to pry open the screen door and kicked in the front door. The thieves made off with cash, a computer and jewelry.
Parkersburg police Sgt. Greg Collins confirmed the burglary. He said the evidence technician processed the scene and the incident remains under investigation.
Rager's aunt -already reeling from the sudden loss of her husband -was now confronted with a robbery. Rager said some of her other relatives are living with her aunt.
Rager suspects the burglars were tipped off by her uncle's obituary notice. Family members also suspect burglars attempted to break into another relative's home while the family attended the viewing services.
Rager said following the robbery, her mother recounted dropping off another relative at her house following the viewing.
"She saw two men in black toboggans come down off her porch and disappear quickly," Rager said.
Rager said her mother didn't think anything of it at the time, until after the burglary the following day.
"I was appalled. If this is something that has been going on and police don't know about it, why is something not being done?"
Collins said he didn't recall this happening before. And said there is no reason at this point to believe it is or will be part of a string of similar crimes.
However, Collins did offer tips to prevent burglars from taking advantage of such situations.
Collins said people should guard against listing addresses in obituaries if at all possible; this also includes advertising the absence from your home on social media like Facebook.
"Criminals are not necessarily geniuses, but they are opportunists," he said.
He recommends asking someone to stay in the home when away from it at a family member's funeral.
"At the very least, have someone checking on the home periodically and make it appear as if someone is actually there. This can be done by having a radio or television on, as well as several lights on inside the residence."
Rager wants the community to become more aware and vigilant against such crimes.
"Obviously people who are doing this are pretty desperate," she said.
Collins said the high level of drug addiction here in the valley fuels property crimes like burglaries.
"It's futile to try and apply any rationale to a crime like this. I'm certain there is a special place in the afterlife for someone who commits this type of crime."