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Funerals Present a Window of Opportunity for Theft

Business management author Tom Peters wrote, “If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” Candice Nicole Hough took that advice to heart when she pried a window screen off the home of a Colorado widow who was away attending her husband’s funeral. While the widow grieved, Hough broke into the home and made off with $3,000 worth of jewelry and an assortment of credit cards and cash.

Police believe that the robbery was part of a larger scheme to use obituaries and death notices to target mourners attending funerals. District Attorney Dan Rubinstein asked the Mesa County judge to set a high cash bond, arguing that it is “hard to imagine more offensive behavior” than taking advantage of a funeral to rob a widow. Hough is being held on a $5,000 cash-only bond and faces several felony charges. She is due to appear in Mesa County court on November 15.

Hough was by no means the first burglar to find a window of opportunity in funerals. In 2008, a Kansas City criminal dubbed the “Funeral Day Burglar” was handed a 43-year prison sentence following his conviction for one count of first-degree burglary, four counts of second-degree burglary, and five counts of stealing. Like Hough, the Funeral Day Burglar used obituaries to single out homeowners who would be away at funeral services. Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said, “Four decades in prison is an appropriate sentence for this series of outrageous crimes.”

As far as robberies go, using obituaries to identify empty homes is fairly creative. But is there any way to close the window of opportunity and protect grieving homeowners from more sorrow? Probably not, given the ubiquitous use of obituaries and death notices to publish information about funeral services. Particulars like date, time, and location are as crucial to mourners as they are to burglars, and leaving these details out of obituaries threatens the result of poorly-attended services. Unless the public embarks on a collective departure away from the practice of publishing obituaries, it seems like the window will remain open for the foreseeable future.  

Emily Lagan

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