3 in Reno Accused of Targeting Victims Through Obits

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A multistate investigation led to the arrest of three men suspected of using information in published obituaries to burglarize homes while grieving families attend services, Washoe County sheriff's officials said Tuesday.

Sheriff Mike Haley called the burglaries a "horrific type of crime" targeting the elderly when they are most vulnerable.

Besides stealing tens of thousands of dollars in collectibles, jewelry, guns, heirlooms and silver dinnerware, the suspects inflicted added emotional turmoil by ransacking the homes, detectives said.

In some cases, credits cards belonging to the deceased were stolen and used days later.

Investigators believe Richard Charles Hery, 19, was a key player in at least seven such break-ins that occurred in southwest Reno from early April through May. They said six other similar burglaries are under investigation, and there could be more.

Hery was arrested June 6 in Tucson.

Two others are charged in connection with the case, and detectives are trying to determine if they took part in carrying out the crimes.

Michael Drey was arrested May 17 for assault and rebooked on drug and stolen property charges while jailed. Justin Wayne Ford, 51, was arrested Monday on an unrelated warrant and possession of stolen property.

Authorities said all three have ties to the Reno area.

Investigators also have talked to a woman and her teenage daughter in Tucson about the case.

In each instance, Haley said bandits would read obituaries published in the newspaper, looking for clues about a person's interests to select their targets.

For example, noting someone was an avid hunter signals there are probably guns in the home, Haley said.

Detectives wouldn't reveal what information led them to focus on Hery. But they tracked him to Salt Lake City before he traveled to Arizona. He was arrested there after police were tipped that he was planning similar crimes in Tucson, Haley said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)