WPSO divers recover stolen antiques, guns

Published 11:45 pm Friday, June 28, 2013

An operation to recover antiques stolen last year in Mississippi sent the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office dive team into the murky waters of Bogalusa’s Lake Vista Friday morning.

Visibility in the water was essentially at zero, so the four dive team members were searching by feel, said Detective Capt. Tommie Sorrell, coordinator at the scene.

The divers worked for more than four hours, with two at a time under the water and the others assisting and handing items to investigators waiting on dry land.

More than $100,000 worth of stolen items were recovered from the water.

The search was for items stolen during a burglary that occurred in Lamar County, Mississippi in April 2012, said Marc Ogden, an investigator with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office.

Sorrell said about $1 million worth of items was stolen from a physician’s home during the burglary.

Recently, more than a year after the crime occurred, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office saw items from the burglary being sold on the Internet.

Ogden said that agency did some legwork on the case and contacted the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office, which then contacted Ogden.

Ogden’s office went out and identified the location in Pearl River County where the stolen items were supposedly being stored. He said a search warrant was obtained, and the sheriff’s departments in Pearl River County, Lamar County and Jefferson Parish worked together to serve the warrant.

During the search of that Pearl River County residence on June 22, approximately $400,000 worth of stolen Tiffany antiques and firearms were recovered. Among the items Ogden found at the location were two stained glass windows valued at $225,000.

Ogden has made two arrests related to the burglary, and he is searching for additional suspects. He said more arrests should follow along with more information on the suspects.

Washington Parish entered the story when the suspects became aware that a search warrant was being run on the main storage location in Pearl River County, Odgen said.

In an attempt to get rid of stolen items the suspects dumped seven Tiffany antique pieces in Lake Vista and 11 guns in another location in the parish, Pushepatapa Creek, off Old Columbia Road.

He said he believes the sites were selected as out-of-the way locations, and it does not appear the suspects intended to return for the items.

The suspects busted up many of the antiques before putting them in the water, he said. But several antiques were recovered intact from Lake Vista, including a vase valued at $45,000. A weapon was also recovered there.

And during an hour-long search later in the day in Pushepatapa Creek, 11 collectible guns were recovered.

Sorrell said a few arrests from Washington Parish, for possessing and damaging stolen property, are also anticipated as the investigation continues.

In addition to the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Pearl River County and Jefferson Parish sheriff’s offices were on the scene during Friday’s recovery operations.

Ogden contacted the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office when he received information that the stolen items had been discarded in the parish, and he said the agency has done everything possible to help with the investigation.

“They have been invaluable to recovering a lot of these items,” he said.

Sorrell said collaboration is a good thing.

“We always work well with other agencies to get the job done and solve crimes,” she said.