Burglar targets widow

March 24, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

KNOXVILLE - Chris Harbaugh Hewitt returned to her Kaetzel Road home Monday evening from the viewing for her husband of 31 years to find her bedroom ransacked and thousands of dollars in cash and items missing.

Hewitt said it was unsettling to think the burglars went to her house because they knew she would be at a funeral home.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Deputy Todd Crowder said a private citizen, who did not wish to be identified publicly, has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the Monday evening burglary at Hewitt's residence, in the 2800 block of Kaetzel Road. Crowder said the benefactor, whom he described as a Boonsboro-area man, was a friend of the family who hoped the reward would help "see that the people who did it get caught."


Investigators said they believe the burglars gained entry through a basement window. They took $1,000 in cash, four rifles valued at about $2,000, two jewelry boxes containing about $800 worth of items and two model trucks valued at $100 from the home.

Crowder said Hewitt was not at the house because she was attending a viewing service for her husband, Joseph William Hewitt.

Joseph Hewitt died at age 53 after a battle with colon cancer. He was a Frederick, Md., native, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a member of the National Rifle Association.

The viewing was held at Keeney and Basford Funeral Home in Frederick between 6 and 9 p.m. Monday.

Crowder said investigators believe someone may have timed the break-in to coincide with the viewing.

"Someone that either knew the victim and the deceased or also possibly saw the obituary with the viewing time, broke into the house because they knew no one would be there," Crowder said. "Nothing was ransacked except the bedroom, where the money was located. It looks like they knew where the money was at."

Crowder said burglaries at houses where residents are at a mourning event are more common in other areas of the country, but that instances could be on the rise locally because of the county's growing population.

Hewitt said she returned from the funeral home to find her bedroom door open and items out of place. She said the incident made her feel violated and unsafe in the home.

"I'm already devastated because of my husband passing away. To have this happen just makes it worse," Hewitt said. "And if that's the reason it happened, I'd be very upset."

One of the items Hewitt said was missing was her first engagement ring, given to her by her recently-deceased husband.

Hewitt said she wished she had arranged for someone to be at the house during the viewing. She said she believes including information in her husband's obituary on his interest in hunting and rare coin collecting may have sparked someone to commit the crime.

Hewitt said people should avoid releasing such information unless they know someone can be at the house while family members are gone.

"I didn't realize you should do that," she said. "Having been through it, someone should definitely stay at the house during a viewing."

Deputies ask anyone with information on the burglary to call the sheriff's department at 301-791-3020.

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