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Rash of break-ins has area residents on edge

Posted 10/03/12 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

In the past two weeks, McKenzie County has seen a surge of crime involving the break-in of three county homes and a body that was found near Power Fuels under suspicious circumstances.
McKenzie County Sheriff Ron Rankin states that he has turned the investigation of the body over to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, but right now, it hasn’t been ruled a homicide.
“They haven’t made an official finding on the cause of death, so the case is still under investigation,” states Rankin.
However, the burglaries are a different story. They are being investigated by Deputy Gary Schwartzenberger of the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department.
“We have some leads that we are chasing, but no conclusions to report at this time,” states Schwartzenberger.
Schwartzenberger states that the M.O. for the break-ins is different, and that currently there is not enough to make him think that the same people committed all three crimes.
“Right now, it doesn’t appear to be a gang, but we haven’t ruled it out,” states Schwartzenberger.
One lead Schwartzenberger was willing to divulge is the belief that one suspect was driving a silver Cadillac STS with dark-tinted windows.
Additionally, McKenzie County Sheriff Ron Rankin shared, “We found an excellent fingerprint at one scene and have sent it off for analysis. We are hoping it will lead us to apprehending the burglar or burglars.”
Both Rankin and Schwartzenberger feel the robbers are ‘feeling out’ the homes.
“They apparently drive up to see if anyone is home,” Schwartzenberger states. “If the home isn’t empty, they drive away or act like they are looking for a rig site, then come back later.”
The residence belonging to Allen Hammeren Jr. is one of the homes that was burglarized in this recent string of break-ins. Hammeren states that he rents the home to an oilfield company and the occupants called him as soon as they could to let him know what happened to his home.
“They are all okay, but they did have things taken from them,” states Hammeren.
According to Mark Koeser, another homeowner who lost property to the thieves, the person or persons responsible appeared to go through his house thoroughly. One item in particular that was stolen was tucked away in the back of his closet, underneath some folded clothes.
“They must have spent some time in the house to find everything that they took and to leave the house neat, like nothing had been done,” states Koeser.
Some of the things missing from the Koeser residence were cash, coins that Mark had been collecting, some keepsakes and some of his wife, Janice’s, jewelry.
“We always lock the door and we know we locked it that day, so it’s unsettling how easily they were able to get into our home,” Koeser states. “When you walk into your home, you assume it’s a safe environment. Then when you find that people have been in your home and have gone through your stuff, it’s unnerving and makes you feel violated.”
According to Koeser, the thieves also appeared to be looking for items that could be used to steal identities. He stresses for people to make sure they keep items like birth certificates and passports in a safe place in order to protect them from being stolen.
“We wish we hadn’t lost those things. Some items we wanted to hand down to our kids, but no one was hurt and it is just stuff. Our prayer is more for the people who did this. They are making choices that lead down a dangerous road and we hope their consciences get to them before something bad happens,” states Koeser.
The home of Hallie and Kris Johnsrud was also broken into.
Schwartzenberger states that the people who committed these crimes appear to be taking anything of value that can be easily carried and calls for people to be watchful and vigilant.
“If you see something that doesn’t look right, call it in,” states Rankin. “The color and type of vehicle is helpful, but a license place is priceless.”
Anyone with information on these incidents is encouraged to call the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department at 444-3654.