Thieves Prey on Mourners at Wakes

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Thieves are targeting people during some of their most vulnerable moments.

They are breaking into cars in church and funeral home parking lots, while mourners are attending a viewing.

"When we came out, this window was shattered," explained Chris Sprague.

Sprague said she was stunned by what she discovered when she left a friend's wake at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Bainbridge the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Someone broke into her car and one parked next to hers, stealing purses from both.

"I think people are very desperate, but I never thought that it would happen at a church," she said.

Father Dan Schlegel said it is unfortunate that someone would target people who are already suffering.

"It was a sacred time for us to be thankful and they have this happen to them. Secondly is, that they were here to mourn with a family who was suffering, and they were victims in the short run," said Schlegel.

The Bainbridge Twp. police chief said he's comparing notes with police departments in Solon and Chagrin Falls, about similar incidents, and Schlegel said there could be even more.

"I put it together with another robbery that happened during a wake at Steinbauer Funeral Home in Solon, and then as I began to speak to other funeral directors, they began to tell me of similar experiences of people's cars being broken into while people were attending wakes," Schlegel said.

Schlegel said he believes the thieves may be reading obituaries to figure out when and where wake services are being held.

He said most people who attend a wake usually don't stay very long.

"And they know that they're not gonna take necessarily their valuable belongings into the funeral home with them," he said.

Schlegel said a credit card belonging to one victim was used at an Aurora gas station within ten minutes of the theft.

Chris Sprague said the incident shattered her sense of security as well as her window.

"So right before the holidays that's very hard, you just have to pay outright for it, and then change all of your accounts, it's been a nightmare," said Sprague.