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Police seeking public's help to recover safe

May 18, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - More than $1 million in cash and valuables were in a safe stolen in March from a retired Mercersburg, Pa., funeral business owner, Pennsylvania State Police said Thursday during an appeal to the public for help in solving the crime.

Trooper Matthew Gordon said Pennsylvania State Police believe the safe is in Berkeley County, but he would not explain how police reached that conclusion.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Department has worked with Pennsylvania State Police for a few weeks, ever since the investigation shifted here.

The safe was stolen from F. Martin Lininger's office on Main Street in Mercersburg during the weekend of March 25. The thieves rolled it out the door, into a back alley, and drove away with it, according to Mercersburg Police, who first investigated the theft.

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Lininger, whose 89th birthday is next month, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the thieves. So far, he has received only one call that produced no leads, he said.

Lininger said Thursday he is resigned to losing more than $100,000 in cash that was in the safe.

He's afraid he might not get back a life's worth of records, including stock certificates, bonds, certificates of deposit, tax records and deeds. It might cost as much as $24,000 to replace all of the paperwork, he said.

The safe also contained heirloom family jewelry that belonged to his mother, his late wife and his daughter; collectible silver coins; and valuable personal papers.

"I think about it a good bit. ... I'm afraid that maybe they dumped it 300 feet in a quarry," said Lininger, who lives by himself.

The safe had been in the office for 75 years, he said.

Gordon described it as a black York, about 4 feet tall and 3 feet square, weighing 700 pounds.

It has the name D.F. Lininger - F. Martin's father - written on it.

Lininger said his family got into the funeral home business in 1910. Without any family to pass the business to, Lininger said, he sold it. It is now known as the Lininger-Fries Funeral Home.

Because of the size and weight of the safe, it is likely that several people helped steal it, Gordon said. "If there's multiple people, they've got to talk" to friends or family, he said.

Anyone with information about the safe can call Gordon at 1-717-264-5161, Berkeley County Crime Solvers at 1-304-267-4999 or the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department at 1-304-267-7000.

"I don't care if it comes in by homing pigeon - as long as it's good information," said Gordon.

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