Authorities see rise in ‘obituary burglaries’

March 10, 2019
Timothy James Crowe

Police have identified a man suspected of breaking into a Wake Forest home last month while a widow was at her husband’s funeral.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Timothy James Crowe, 28, on charges of breaking and entering and larceny after breaking and entering. Crowe wasn’t in custody Friday, and police asked for the public’s help to find him.

5 On Your Side talked this week with the woman whose jewelry was stolen on Feb. 7. Home security video showed a man walking out of her house carrying a safe and a blue bag.

The woman said she was sharing her story to warn others, and she hoped people recognized her family heirlooms to help catch the thief and possibly recover the stolen goods.

A viewer contacted 5 On Your Side and said Crowe was a suspect in a similar break-in at her home in Knightdale in September while she was at her mother’s funeral.

Crowe hasn’t been charged in that case, but 5 On Your Side shared his name with Wake Forest police on Thursday.

Steven Davis, director of the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service, said such crimes seem to be on the rise. Thieves find their targets in obituaries or, perhaps, by watching what grieving families post online.

“Some call them ‘obituary burglars.’ [They] have been prevalent for some time,” Davis said. “It is a crime, I think, most people will find so repugnant because it is exploiting and taking advantage of people when they are most vulnerable.”

To protect your home while you are away, he recommended having someone stay back at the house while the rest of the family is at a funeral, leave a car in the driveway and lights on to give the illusion someone is home and be careful what you share online.

The Wake Forest homeowner said she went to three local pawn shops on Friday and found a few of the missing pieces of jewelry, including her late husband’s wedding ring and Masonic ring, a gold cross her grandmother had given her and a baseball pendant her father had given to her.

She said she is emotionally drained after the ordeal but is grateful for the sudden progress on the case.

Crowe is listed as a parole absconder on the state Department of Public Safety website. He was released from prison last May after serving time for breaking and entering and larceny, and his parole was due to end Feb. 19 before he stopped meeting with parole officers, records show.

He also has several previous convictions for fraud, burglary, theft and drug offenses, according to state records.

Anyone with information on Crowe’s whereabouts is asked to call the Wake Forest Police Department Tip Line at 919-435-9610.