The morning of Dec. 26, Vaughn post office PTF clerks Sherrie Rondeau and Joe Abrego were shocked to learn the drive-up mailboxes were stolen sometime during Christmas night. Their Saturday morning routine was severely disrupted with calls to authorities and interviews with inspectors.
Later in the morning, a neighbor to the post office property, Mike Christiansen, walked into the post office to report that he apparently was an eye witness. About 1:30 a.m. he looked outside his window to see why his dog, Molly, was growling and saw an older white Chevy long-bed truck parked at the mailboxes. He could hear the banging of a man hitting a box, he said.
His first inclination was that the man had maybe broken his mirror on a box and was angry enough to get out and kick it. When he learned from his next door neighbor and uncle, Don Anker, about the theft, he realized what he had witnessed. Both men found the incident hard to believe.
“Who’d ever think somebody would be out stealing mailboxes,” Anker said.
Christiansen said the driver left his lights on during the heist. “The time they were here and the time they were gone was less than five minutes,” he said. Christiansen heard the truck pull away from the post office and head east toward the Key Peninsula Highway. He believes the truck turned south on the highway.
Disbelief was the sentiment shared by the many patrons at the post office Saturday. They gathered around in the parking lot speculating about the incident. Some drivers threw up their hands as they drove through the drop-off driveway. One such driver rolled down his window and asked patrons Jake and Tammy Jacobsen what happened to the mailboxes. “Someone stole them,” answered Jake Jacobsen and added, “They were kind enough to leave the nuts and washers.” The driver shrugged and while closing his window called back, “Only on the Peninsula.”
As part of the investigation, Rondeau checked with other Key Peninsula post offices and learned that Lakebay had suffered the same crime. However, boxes at Lake Kathryn and at Capitol Lumber in Key Center were not stolen. Abrego speculated the cause of the theft could either be that the thief hoped for a lot of checks in Christmas cards, or perhaps he reasoned there would be end of the month payment checks in the boxes.
The theft is under investigation by Pierce County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Ward and Deputy Robert Larson. Their report has been forwarded to the Law Enforcement Support Agency (LESA), which will coordinate reports with federal agencies.
“It is unknown how much mail was in the drop box(es),” the report reads. This issue is the reason that the crimes associated with this incident include identity theft. Other charges may include bribery, ransom, and embezzlement.
Both the Vaughn and Lakebay post offices are warning patrons who may have dropped letters after 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 25 and before 8 a.m. Dec. 26.
The Monday after Christmas Vaughn had a new drop box to replace the stolen ones. It is double in size of the previous boxes and has shiny new nuts and washers.