A Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy is accused of robbing mourners’ homes while they were attending the funerals of their loved ones, NBC News reports. Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy Janelle Gericke would allegedly scour the obituaries looking for the names of the recently-deceased and when their funerals were, so she would know which homes to rob and when.
Gericke’s alleged scheme lasted from February 2018 through her arrest in June 2019 and reportedly wasn’t just limited to the families of the deceased.
“[Gericke’s crimes] occurred while the homeowners were attending the funeral of a family member. In such instances, the deceased person’s online obituary listed the homeowners as surviving relatives along with the date and time of funeral services,” read the criminal complaint against her.
Sometimes she got caught, though she usually had a cover story for those instances. On some occasions, she allegedly explained to her colleagues that she was trying to follow through on a Facebook Marketplace transaction and had the address mixed up. In at least one case, she reportedly told an officer who showed up that she was trying to buy a baby swing from Facebook Marketplace but had wound up at the wrong house. However, when Gericke provided a name and phone number for the person who was supposedly selling the baby swing, that person denied ever putting up such a toy for sale.
In another case, Gericke allegedly told a colleague that she was at a home to clean.
At least one victim was one of Gericke’s colleagues on the police force. A colleague mass emailed her department to say that she was going on vacation for two days. While she was gone, she watched her security cameras through a mobile device and saw a pregnant woman looking around for a spare key. Gericke was pregnant at the time.
People who had been burglarized were showing police surveillance footage of the alleged burglar that had robbed them while they were laying their loved ones to rest. Gericke was allegedly clearly visible in many of them.
Authorities put two and two together and set up a sting, sending deputies to monitor two homes belonging to relatives of an individual whose obituary was in the newspaper. While the funeral was taking place, Gericke reportedly showed up with her child, but supposedly left the baby in the car when the crime was taking place.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office turned the investigation of Gericke over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, in order to maintain neutrality, according to a statement.
It’s not known, as of this writing, how much Gericke is alleged to have stolen. So far, she’s accused of stealing a checkbook from a home while an 82-year-old man and his family were at his girlfriend’s funeral.
Gericke faces up to 12.5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.