Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Priceless heirloom one of hundreds of stolen property recovered in weeks-long investigation

Samantha Berryman holds a family heirloom recovered by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.

Samantha Berryman first started playing the violin in middle school. It was her grandmother's idea for her to learn the string instrument. However, Samantha didn’t learn to play on just any violin, but rather a very special one with a mother-of-pearl flower inlay and a horsehair bow. The antique French violin first belonged to her grandmother's great aunt. It was passed down through generations of Samantha's family and then onto her.

Now, as an adult, the violin has become more than a musical instrument to Samantha. It became a meaningful connection to her past. Even more so, after the grandparents who raised her passed away.

In July of 2020, the priceless family heirloom was stolen—Samantha worried it was gone forever. In September, Samantha got a call from the Mesa County Sheriff's Office that her violin had been found.

"It's a part of me, part of my family, my history," said Samantha after being reunited with the family heirloom. "I thought I never would get it back."

The violin was one of hundreds of stolen property recovered as part of an extensive investigation by several Mesa County Sheriff's Office units and agency partners into recent burglaries and car thefts in Mesa County.

Weeks of investigative work led to eight arrests and the recovery of stolen vehicles, defaced firearms, and tens of thousands of dollars' worth of stolen property—items, like Samantha's antique violin.

Patrol vehicles on Mitchell Road 
Mid-July, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office began investigating a series of storage unit burglaries and auto thefts. Deputies and investigators combed through evidence, surveillance video, identified potential suspects, and developed information that ultimately led to an apartment on the 400 block of Coronado Court. There, investigators located what is believed to be stolen property and illegal narcotics.

That residence led to more potential suspects and the identification of two more homes where stolen property was stored. The properties are located on the 200 block of Mitchell Road and the 300 block of 27 ½ Road.

Investigators believe individuals would steal property or cars and take it to the identified residences and trade for service, money, or illegal drugs.

Here’s what deputies have recovered:
MCSO Deputy carries property
believed to be stolen

  • 4 stolen vehicles
  • 2 trailers believed to be stolen
  • More than 40 unlawfully possessed guns - some of which were also identified as stolen or defaced
  • Illegal narcotics - distribution amounts
  • Hundreds of stolen items, including tools, solar panels, batteries, jewelry, and an antique violin.
  • Evidence of illegal title transfers
Investigators so far have linked the stolen property to at least 25 cases of storage unit, residential and business burglaries, and auto thefts and car break-ins. They originated from multiple jurisdictions on the Western Slope, with one case dating back to 2007.

As a result of this investigation, eight people face various charges that range from theft, burglary, unlawful possession of weapons, and illegal narcotics.

This investigation is still active and ongoing. Deputies and investigators continue to interview involved persons and work to identify more related cases. More charges and arrests are anticipated.

A complex case of this magnitude wouldn't be possible without our partner law enforcement agencies and community members' help. Colorado State Patrol, Grand Junction Police Department, Fruita Police Department, Western Colorado Drug Task Force, Mesa County Code Enforcement, and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Patrol, Investigations, Crime Reduction, and Street Crime Units all worked on various aspects of this investigation.

Investigators and deputies catalog
 potential evidence
The work isn’t over yet. Mesa County Sheriff’s Office investigators are diligently working to reunite the stolen property found with their rightful owner, people like Samantha. It’s a slow and challenging process. Investigators rely on photos, serial numbers, and identifying marks reported to law enforcement to determine the owners of the items found. Items without such documentation may never be matched with a stolen property case.

A good practice for community members is to document belongings, keep detailed records of serial numbers, identifying marks, and photos of valuable items. If your items ever get stolen, that documentation can help law enforcement return it to you if found. To report a theft, call non-emergency dispatch at (970) 242-6707 or make a report online.