A stretcher was stolen out of a vehicle at one local funeral home and vehicles were broken into at two other local funeral homes earlier this month.
Billy Hendrix, vice president at Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries, said officials there got a call Jan. 2 advising them to check whether anything was stolen following break-ins at other area funeral homes.
“We did a quick survey and didn’t notice anything,” Hendrix said. “Then we started looking for a stretcher and we realized that someone took the stretcher out of the pickup van.”
The van wasn’t damaged; Hendrix said the back door is set to not lock as funeral workers are frequently in the back loading and unloading.
Memorial Park reported the incident to police that day and, according to the incident report, some $2,950 in items were stolen, including the stretcher, worth about $2,500.
Hendrix said he believes the thief knows how to operate the stretchers, adding that they take some expertise in handling.
“It just makes a person wonder how could somebody pull up here in the middle of the night that didn’t know anything about anything and just, ‘Oh, I’ll go to the back of that hearse or removal vehicle or whatever and I’m going to get the stretcher out,” Hendrix said. It would just fall to the ground if it was improperly handled.”
Gainesville Police Department spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook said it’s not clear what the suspect was trying to take in an incident reported to police on Jan. 1 at Ward’s Funeral Home in Gainesville.
A surveillance video shows someone getting out of a vehicle, breaking the hearse window and eventually leaving. Nothing was reported stolen, police said.
“As far as the intentions of the individual, that’s unknown to us,” Holbrook said. “Of course we’d like to be able to identify this individual and find out the motive for this crime.”
Ben Mason, one of the owners at Little-Davenport Funeral Home, said a GPS was stolen after someone broke out the window in one of its pickup vans, a crime discovered the morning of New Year’s Day.
“Our van luckily didn’t have a stretcher in it,” Mason said. The GPS was worth about $200, he said.
“I feel sure it may have been the same guy, but I don’t know,” Mason added.