Issaquah burglary offers lesson in vigilance

August 14, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

The call from the Issaquah Police Department interrupted dinner at Pogacha for Fred and Mardi Nystrom, longtime residents in the Sycamore neighborhood south of downtown.

The officer on the line asked if the Nystroms expected any family members to leave their home through a bedroom window.

“I told him, ‘Not our family, man, we wouldn’t fit through that window,’” Fred Nystrom recalled Aug. 13.

They rushed home July 6 to discover their home had been burglarized. The thief shimmied into the home through a small bedroom window left open in the July heat, and stole jewelry, computers and family heirlooms.

“Most of what she stole from me were memories,” Fred Nystrom said.

Police later identified the suspect as Jackie Jean Johnston, 45, a SeaTac resident with a long rap sheet.

Investigators said neighbors watched the suspect break into the Nystroms’ home and carry off items, but the neighbors did not call immediately police because they did not know what to do.

Johnston is also a suspect in several recent burglaries in Sammamish and unincorporated King County near Issaquah.

Mementos kept in a cigar humidor from Fred Nystrom’s grandfather disappeared in the heist. They recovered some items, but others — including a World War II artifact from the years Fred Nystrom’s grandfather spent in a prisoner-of-war camp — cannot be replaced.

“It’s always possible that something will hit a pawn shop and trigger the list,” he said.

Mardi Nystrom said the items recovered by police appeared to have been tossed together by the thief as she hurried through the Nystrom home.

“It appeared as though she’d taken everything, and then thrown it in the middle of the floor and gone through there to pick out the prime pieces, and then just scooped it up and put it in different bags,” she said.

Still, Fred Nystrom said the incident did not make the family feel less secure or ill at ease in Issaquah.

“We’re not victims,” he said. “We just got robbed.”

Johnston remains in custody at the King County Jail on $10,000 bail on charges of burglary, possession of stolen property and trafficking in stolen property.

Police said Johnston sold a stolen laptop computer for $100 to a man at the public restrooms behind Issaquah City Hall on July 27. The man later told police he noticed other computers inside Johnston’s pickup.

Issaquah officers discovered Johnston’s truck at the Issaquah Transit Center, 1050 17th Ave. N.W., Aug. 1 and alerted a detective.

Police then served a search warrant on the vehicle, and discovered more than $10,000 worth of items from the local burglaries.

Johnston told the detective interviewing her at the scene, “I think you’ll find what you need in the truck,” court documents state.

Issaquah Police Detective Sgt. Kevin Nash later contacted the Nystroms and the other items’ owners to start the process to return the stolen property.

Johnston is due in King County Superior Court for arraignment Aug. 20.

“The police can’t be everywhere,” Fred Nystrom said. “If you see something, say something. Call them. They don’t mind that at all.”

Police used the incident to illustrate the need for residents to report strange activity to police as burglaries increase.

Issaquah officers responded to 53 burglaries — 33 residential and 20 commercial — between January and July. In the same period last year, police responded to 47 burglaries — 30 commercial and 17 commercial.

Police responded to 107 burglaries overall in Issaquah last year and 101 burglaries in 2010, according to the annual Crime in Washington report compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs and the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

“If something doesn’t look right, it may very well not be,” Issaquah Police Cmdr. Stan Conrad said. “We don’t have a problem with them calling us about a suspicious circumstance — as we call it — and we’ll go check it out.”

Crime declined in Issaquah last year, and although the rates of violent crimes and property crimes dropped overall, robberies and burglaries increased from 2010.

“People need to realize that we do have burglaries and thefts that occur in town, and to call us if something doesn’t look right and to not to be concerned that they’re wasting our time,” Conrad said. “We would much rather go and find out that it was something innocent than to think we missed an opportunity.”

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