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Who's the mystery owner?

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Since April 2006 a collection of nearly 20 personal items including gold and diamond wedding and engagement rings, necklaces and watches have been stored as evidence for a unsolved potential crime.

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It's been long enough now that River Falls Police Investigator John Wilson could auction them off. Proceeds would be plowed back into the city's General Fund.

But Wilson's not ready to give up. Not yet.

It's not so much the crime that bugs him -- assuming there's crime -- but about getting these keepsakes back into the right hands.

"They seem to have so much sentimental value," Wilson said. "There are initials engraved on the rings."

Wilson hasn't appraised the jewelry but believes the collection has considerable monetary value.

Part of that collection also includes a pocket knife, button hook and a sheet of campaign stationary bearing the name Jay Griggs for State Assembly campaign ("A leader who listens").

Griggs, former publisher of the River Falls Journal, Hudson Star-Observer and Pierce County Herald, ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 1996 against Alice Clausing. In 1998 he ran for State Assembly but was defeated in the Republican primary by the current assemblywoman, Kitty Rhoades.

On a white sheet of Griggs' campaign stationary is a partial itemized list of items with their worth and which parent each belongs to.

Wilson said another interesting item from the mystery collection is an empty Gemini Jewelers repair bag.

Gemini was a fixture on Main Street River Falls for more than 30 years before going out of business earlier in 2009.

Owner Darryl Hetrick told Wilson the jewelry wasn't from his store and that he hadn't used that type of merchandise repair bag for more than a decade.

It was in spring 2006 that police responded to a tip and recovered what is now the unclaimed collection of personal items. An informant said the things didn't seem to belong to the person who had them.

Wilson questioned that person, a local male. The suspect claimed he was given the jewelry and other items by an unknown female hitchhiker.

The suspect said he had driven her to a Hudson motel, but Wilson said the motel has no records to show that such a woman ever arrived or stayed at the motel.

Wilson suspects the items were not given away by a hitchhiker, but taken in some burglary or car theft, either in River Falls or nearby.

He said there might even be more than one victim, meaning the collection may have more than one owner.

"To prove it was stolen, I need a victim first," Wilson said. "But what I'd really like is just to find the rightful owner. With the references to a mom and dad, this is personal stuff. Someone is missing this."

How long will he hold on to these missing/stolen items?

"I'm in no hurry," Wilson said. "It's already been over three years."

Wilson asked that the Journal not give a more precise description of the mystery items. He wants anyone trying to claim them to offer proof.

"I don't necessarily expect a person to show me receipts, but knowing what the initials on the rings say would be a good start," Wilson said.

Wilson typically works days at the police station from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Please call him at 425-0909 if you know anything about this evidence or wish to make a claim.

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