Victims recover many items from 'funeral burglaries'

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Landmark News Service

 After months of distress and anger over the ransacking of her Sonora home and violation of her personal life as tragedy erupted around her, Normaline Skees felt elation Friday as she reflected on the arrest of suspects tied to the burglary.

“Hopefully they’ll get them all,” she said.

Kentucky State Police made three arrests last week of men suspected not only of burglarizing Skees’ residence but also the Clarkson home of Cindy and Dennis Higdon while they were attending the funeral of their son, Christian, who was killed in June with a hatchet.

Michael S. Acord, 40, of Magnolia, was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Timothy Terry, 40, of Vine Grove, was charged with receiving stolen property over $500 and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. James Greg Parrett, 42, of Magnolia, was charged with receiving stolen property over $500 and possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), second offense.

Acord was lodged in the Hardin County Detention Center without bond. Parrett was lodged in the Hardin County Detention Center in lieu of 10 percent of a $10,000 bond. Terry was lodged in the Meade County jail and released after posting 10 percent of a $5,000 bond. However, Trooper Norman Chaffins, KSP Post 4 spokesman, said Terry was rearrested on first-degree burglary charges and lodged in Grayson County Detention Center over the weekend.

Chaffins on Saturday evening said the other two men had not been formally charged with burglary in the case yet, but a Hardin County Detention Center official said Parrett has been charged with first-degree burglary in Grayson County and possession of a controlled substance in LaRue County. Parrett also has been charged with possessing a license after driving privileges were revoked, according to the jail.

Items taken from the Higdon home included firearms, multiple electronic devices, jewelry and hundreds of dollars in change. On March 21, Skees found her home burglarized of thousands of dollars worth of personal belongings upon returning from the funeral of her husband, Richard “Lanny” Skees, who died of leukemia.

In both cases, police said recorded serial numbers helped them track the stolen property once the men began pawning items at local pawn shops as well as a shop in Glasgow.

KSP received several tips from the community but caught fire on a lead once Acord was suspected of pawning a power tool taken from the Higdon home, said KSP Detective Ryan Johnson. The serial number of the stolen item was run through the LINK-NCIC database, which led police to Acord. He was not charged with receiving stolen property because the items in his possession were valued at less than $500, which is a misdemeanor, Johnson said.

Police said Terry was found in possession of items from both burglaries as well as items from another burglary in the county the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office has been working. Parrett, meanwhile, pawned items from the Skees burglary and had other items taken from the home in his possession, according to police. KSP said they found items from two other burglaries in Parrett’s home that KSP and the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office have been investigating.

Police are unsure how many burglaries the men are involved in but believe there are at least two or three more in addition to the Skees and Higdon burglaries. Johnson said items were pawned at Dixie Pawn & Gun in Elizabethtown, Kwik-Kash Pawn in Radcliff and Glasgow Gun & Pawn in Glasgow.

Police did not speculate on motives but had a hunch the men knew one another and the robberies were connected based on the manner of targeting homes of families attending funerals.

“We immediately thought they were connected,” Johnson said.

Chaffins said drugs also could be a factor and play a role in the majority of burglaries. When asked, police said they are not sure how the men tracked the families but said they likely accessed online obituaries, newspaper obituaries or followed publicity from the cases. Police also are investigating the possibility of accomplices and additional suspects.

Johnson said 90 to 95 percent of the property stolen from the Higdons has been retrieved and returned save for a laptop, a few coins and other small items. 

Items also have been returned from the Skees burglary, including guns, an older billfold that belonged to Lanny and a pearl necklace Normaline said belonged to her mother.

Johnson said it made him feel good to call the families, inform them of the arrests and return the stolen property.

“A lot of times we see the bad,” Johnson said. “In this case, we got to see the good as well.”

Chaffins, who has referred to the thieves in the past as “lowlifes,” said the burglaries angered officers and inspired them to work 18- to 20-hour days, chasing down any semblance of a lead for a break in the case.

“They treated it like their own home had been burglarized,” he said.

Chaffins had few kind words for the suspects.

“It’s really pathetic (that people) would stoop to that level,” he said, equating it to kicking someone while they’re down.

Skees said she is thankful for the support she has received in her lowest hour.

“They did personalize it,” she said. “I think not only the police but a lot of people in the community could envision it happening to them and how distraught they would be.”

Capt. John Ward, KSP Post 4 commander, said the families not only were dealing with grief but anger that someone violated their personal space at such a vulnerable time. In the wake of the burglaries, residents are starting to housesit during funerals and neighborhood watches are being formed, he said.

“This is a good example of why families, friends and neighbors need to watch out for one another,” Ward said.

Skees remembers a time when families always left someone behind during funerals to collect food and greet visitors. She said this tradition should return.

“Sometimes I think we need to go back to the old ways,” she said.