LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Someone targeted families at their lowest point and now police say they've caught him. A Louisville man was charged Thursday with breaking into at least ten homes while the victims were at funerals.
Michael Bennett, 32, has already served time for burglary, and based on the number of burglaries Bennett is charged with this time, investigators speculate some of the victims may even live outside of Jefferson County. Unfortunately, much of what Bennett is accused of taking might never be back in the hands of the people who have already lost so much more than earthly possessions.
Shortly after Donald Johnson's home was broken into during his wife's funeral in July, he told WAVE 3 News, "to me it's the lowest life person that could be."
When we met him, Johnson was experiencing so many emotions. Forgiveness was not one of them. He'd lost his wife of 53 years, Delores, and was struggling to understand how someone could take advantage of the family's grief and time away from home for the funeral. Police haven't charged Bennett with Johnson's break-in yet, but the M.O. fits.
"It's insult to injury if you will," said LMPD Lieutenant Rob Davis.
Davis said Bennett would scan the obituaries and target homes of the survivors.
"So if the husband passed, the wife was at the funeral," siad Davis. "If the wife passed, the husband was at the funeral."
Police say Bennett was breaking in and taking what he could to support a heroin addiction.
"Then he was stealing anything that was easily pawnable, you could get money for, we looked at guns, jewelry," said Davis.
For weeks, police have worked to break the case. Finally they got a tip about a truck parked outside of a home that turned out to have been broken into.
"A citizen that was very attentive and just talked to us and give us the basic information gave us the key to solving this whole thing," said Davis. "If it hadn't been for that citizen, we'd still be hunting."
They linked the truck to Bennett. Then Thursday an officer caught Bennett leaving a home that had just been broken into with items stolen from another family the same day in the truck. So far, they've only found a fraction of what was stolen.
"Their property is probably gone," Davis said of the other victims.
But Davis says the families can take some small comfort from the arrest, "so you don't have to sit at home and worry every night about this gentleman. He's ours now."
For Donald Johnson, while he'd like to have his things back, now at least his curiosity might be satisfied.
"I'd like to meet him face to face to see what kind of character he is ... has to be a low life," he said.
Police say that they don't believe Bennett will be the last person to use obituaries to find victims. Davis said grieving families need to find someone who will stay behind at their homes during funerals. For those of us who want to pay our respects, Davis said this might be an even better way to help.