Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dead Give-A-Way

by Susan Murphy-Milano

Imagine for a moment the grief associated with the death of a loved one. The planning of a memorial or funeral service is overwhelming.

Your body and mind feel invaded by some unknown alien force. You cannot think straight. There is a tremendous amount to do during this time. And all you want to do is “just get through it all.”

When my
parents died, the family home where I learned to play my first game of hopscotch and learned to roller skate without taking another trip to the emergency room for a broken bone, was burglarized.

On the day of my parents' funerals, along with the entire residential street, as we were saying goodbye . . . thieves were saying hello as they entered into the rear basement window of the home and helped themselves to whatever they could easily carry out the door. No one was ever arrested. It has haunted me ever since.

Recently, a neighbor passed away. The husband and
wife raised their family and lived in the same home for close to 50 years. As Emily, the grieving widow surrounded herself with family and close friends she went through the motions. First, Emily made arrangements with a funeral home for the wake and funeral service. While in the office of the funeral director, Emily handed the computer-generated death notice she filled out on-line with all the information on the immediate family, date and time of both the wake and funeral, for submission to the newspapers. Emily included the clubs, charities, and associations her dearly departed loved one involved himself with over the years. From the published death notice:

"John was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He served in the Army as a captain during WWII. He was a proud member of local 714. Bob was a member of a rare stamp and coin club. He collected first edition books. And when he retired John traveled the world discovering new treasures and meeting and making many friends. He will be missed by so many who loved and knew him."

It would become painfully obvious someone else loved John, or at least his property, when Emily and her grown children returned from the funeral service eleven hours later to find a thief had broken into their home as the family laid their loved one to rest. Much of what was stolen could not be replaced. This included years of family photos filled with loving memories.

These types of crimes during death are common. According to law enforcement it is rare when an arrest is made in these cases, because everyone is attending the funeral.

A published death notice is a dead giveaway for a thief.

It is very simple to gain information. Start by using the
white pages on the Internet (go to people search) and type in anyone's name and the state where they live. I suggest using your own name and see what comes up. When I did this for Emily, John's name came up, age, phone number, who else lives in the home. If I look further, the site also lists the first 10 neighbors in the surrounding area of the residence. YUK!

Once I had the address I headed for the County Treasurer's Office Web site. Depending on the state and county of an address, locating the tax identification number of a property will vary.

Once I typed in the address, the tax information and history of the home was on the screen. I pressed another tab on the site and I was directed to a live photo of Emily's home and property. Great tool for someone preparing to break into a home. For Emily's residence, I was able to visually see with the assistance of Google "streetview." Close-up I viewed the back entrance of the property, the height of the trees and shrubs surrounding the home and a large detached garage.

The very first order of business you should take care of prior to going to make arrangements is, head to your local post office. Fill out a card and have the mail held for a three to four week period or change the mailing address to a friend or a relative's. This prevents important mail from being stolen. And all around it is a great safety tool.

Next, limit what is said in a published death notice. Do not list too much personal information or activities. This gives a heads-up to thieves about valuables or money in the home.

Make arrangements with your church to house sit during the wake and funeral service. If that if is not an option, contact a reputable security company and hire them to sit in the home. Or call your local law enforcement and ask if you can hire an off-duty officer.


Diane Fanning said...

It is sad that precautions like this are necessary. It reminds me of a time when I was rear-ended by a car which was then rar-ended by another car. The woman in the third car got out of her vehicle to await the arrival of police. By the time, an officer asked her for her driver's license, a bystander had stolen her purse out of her car.

katfish said...

This became so much of a problem in the rural area that I live
(53,000 in Knox County) that having a house sitter during funeral services has been common practice. There is no honor among thieves!

Anonymous said...

OMG! Great advice! It's amazing what's online! This girl can write!

Anonymous said...

The problem is not only in small rural area's, it includes big cities.

The fall in the economy will increase these crimes. During the depression grave robbing was a common practice.

The Funeral Lady said...

Sadly, crimes such as these are becoming more common. Thieves have little respect for a grieving family. Only a few of the families I help with funerals post a public notice detailing the date and time of a funeral service for exactly this reason. Why spend money on a paid obit to advertise when you won't be home? Best advice - when a neighbor asks if there's anything she or he can do to help after a loved one dies - suggest housesitting during the funeral. It's a gift that will be appreciated... This article is an important reminder to everyone. All my best, Pam Vetter.

Maggie's Rose said...

There is so much evil in this world!

Sometimes the very thought of it all makes me want to crawl into some hole and hide...

But, then I see souls such as Susan, exposing the evil in order to rip it of its power and reclaim I take my next breathe and do as best as I'm able to follow this lead.

katfish said...

I have a tip for anyone who finds themselves as a housesitter for a funeral. When my father died, a neighbor who housesat during the funeral brought a "care package". She had toilet paper, paper towells, and boxes of kleenix, she said while she waited she would make sure we were "stocked up".This was so appreciated...Dad had been sick and this just wasn't something we were thinking about, even though we had a lot of "out of towners' staying.