Burglaries: The Curious Case of the Purple ButtonRiver Falls police seem to have solved at least four recent burglaries. Other than the usual bit of good detective work, the presence of a purple button in a jarful of stolen coins contributed to cracking the case.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
River Falls police seem to have solved at least four recent burglaries. Other than the usual bit of good detective work, the presence of a purple button in a jarful of stolen coins contributed to cracking the case.
As a result, two local boys ages 16 and 14, both River Falls High School students, have been caught.
The 16-year-old is in a juvenile detention facility in Eau Claire. Each will be dealt with by Pierce County Juvenile Court authorities.
The four burglaries include one on Sunday in the 1700 block of Wisconsin Street in which a 1999 Buick LaSabre, laptop computer, i-POD and related equipment, "Boston Scientific" backpack, and a large jar of coins were taken; the others occurred Oct. 22 in the 300 block of Lewis Street, in which a Benelli 12-gauge shotgun was taken; Jan. 16 in the 300 block of East Johnson Street, when an old 30-30 hunting rifle was taken; and Feb. 17 in the 400 block of East Johnson Street, when 12 bottles of wine were taken.
Monday police checked with ShopKo and learned the store's coin exchange machine was used the day before to make a $267 coins-for-bills transaction.
Interestingly, the coin exchanger had jammed. When it was opened, inside was a purple button, which may have caused the jamming.
The purple button was inside the large jar of coins burglarized from the male homeowner on Wisconsin Street. The button belonged to the man's wife's sweatshirt.
ShopKo's surveillance video allegedly showed four local teens, including an 18-year-old woman, near the coin exchanger during the time of the $267 transaction that ended with the machine jamming.
Police identified the four youths by their video images.
Later Sunday, three of the four teens were seen allegedly using EconoFoods coin exchanger. All told, between ShopKo and EconoFoods, they were able to trade more than $400 worth of stolen coins for currency.
The case eventually led to a town of River Falls house, where police and Pierce County sheriff's deputies carried out a search warrant Tuesday granted by Judge Robert Wing.
The owner of the house was arrested and taken to jail. Police Sgt. Jeff Linehan said a number of stolen items from the River Falls burglaries, including the guns, were recovered at the house.
The stolen Buick was located stuck in a snow bank about a mile away.
Two of the four teen suspects were detained while driving near the rural River Falls home. Linehan said the 16-year-old River Falls boy is linked to all four local burglaries.
Linehan said police haven't quite closed the case, saying there are more people of interest to question.
Please see the March 18 print edition of the River Falls Journal for the complete story.