by Tammy Sakry
John Sanders spotted something he didn’t even know was missing among the more 800 pieces of stolen property — the baseball he had signed by several 1961 New York Yankees baseball players.
“I didn’t know it was missing until I saw it here,” Sanders said.
When Sanders was 13, he had staked out the Radisson Hotel lobby waiting for the players to come through.
Now the Coon Rapids resident was among several victims from eight different cities to visit the Ramsey Police Department Nov. 19 and 20 in hopes of reclaiming property they lost after being burglarized.
Jerried Michael Curtis was charged Nov. 2 in Anoka County District Court with a felony first-degree burglary charge as well as felony attempted first-degree burglary for two burglaries in Coon Rapids.
But other burglaries that Curtis allegedly may have committed took place in Coon Rapids, Ramsey, Anoka, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Elk River, Big Lake Township and Dayton starting in July through Oct. 31, said Ramsey Police Chief Jim Way.
Sanders and his wife, Gail Owen, were victims of one of 10 Coon Rapids burglaries that occurred in October.
Before Curtis’ arrest, “there were a couple of daytime residential burglaries a week,” said Coon Rapids Police Department Det. Chad Duckson.
Since the Oct. 31 arrest, “there have been no daytime residential burglaries,” he said.
The burglary of Owen’s and Sanders’ home occurred Oct. 22 while the couple were on vacation in Colorado.
On the first day of their 10-day vacation, they got a call from their niece saying the house had been broken into, said Owen.
Her niece had been at the home earlier in the day to use the Internet and the house was fine. But when she returned later that afternoon, with one of her 1-year-old triplets in tow, it had been broken into, she said.
The burglar had used a crowbar to break in the front door, Sanders said.
A lot of jewelry, coins, electronics and watches, including Owen’s grandfather’s pocket watch and 100-year-old marbles, as well as the pearls once owned by Owen’s mother, grandmother and cousin were taken.
“Gail was a wreck,” Sanders said.
Ted Nagorski arrived home in Elk River early Oct. 11 and stopped a burglary in progress.
“The gun case was open but all of the guns were there,” Nagorski said.
“I don’t know if he saw me coming down the driveway or heard the garage door opening,” he said.
The burglar did make off with several televisions, cameras, antique watches as well as Nagorski’s Navy service medals and dog tags, which were not recovered.
From the burglary, police were able to recover a couple of televisions, an antique watch belong to his wife, Kris’ grandmother as well as a few pieces of jewelry.
Ramsey Police Department Investigator Ben Rossum “took the personal approach when tracking down the victims and we appreciate that,” said Kris Nagorski.
Among the items recovered from the Ramsey home where Curtis was staying was a photo card with images of a family grave stone.
Rossum tracked down her cousin in Foley, who referred him to them, Kris Nagorski said.
While the couple were able to recover some of their items, “it is a piddly amount,” she said.
Among the still-missing items are a ring once worn by her mother and a bracelet she purchased in Sweden five years ago while on a trip to visit relatives and her ancestral family farm.
“It was devastating to get the call of the burglary,” Kris Nagorski said.
But the call that the police were able to recover the photo card, with pictures of little trick-or-treaters, was fantastic, she said.
“It was kind of a relief, but it was bigger relief to know the burglar was in jail,” Kris Nagorski said.
The burglar took what he could grab and pawned items at area pawn stores, some as far away as North Branch, said Way.
Some of the nicer, more expensive gold pieces of jewelry taken during the numerous burglaries were not recovered. They were likely sold to area jewelry shops, Rossum said.
To help police identify property, it is best to have serial numbers or photos of the pieces, Way said.
Several victims are bringing in family photos of them wearing the jewelry, he said.
Capturing Curtis, the alleged burglar, was a team effort of Coon Rapids and Ramsey police officers working together, Way said.
While Ramsey had seven daytime burglaries in a relatively short period of time, Coon Rapids had 10, Way said.
Law enforcement officials received help from Pawn America, which turned over $15,000 worth of jewelry, said Duckson.
The store staff were very cooperative, he said.
Coon Rapids police were also helped by a witness who saw the suspect and was allegedly able to identify Curtis as the person who broke into a home on the 1300 block of 105th Lane N.W. in Coon Rapids Oct. 26, Duckson said.
A stolen car report, which was later determined to be false, linked Curtis to the Ramsey property, he alleged.
This is the largest organized burglary operation he has seen in his 20-year career, Duckson said.