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She used obituaries to target grieving families, cops say. Then police laid a trap

Police say 26-year-old Latonia Shelecia Stewart would read obituaries and then break into the homes of the listed next-of-kin while the grieving family members were attending the funeral. Police charged her with burglary.
Police say 26-year-old Latonia Shelecia Stewart would read obituaries and then break into the homes of the listed next-of-kin while the grieving family members were attending the funeral. Police charged her with burglary. Greenburgh Police Department

A New York City woman made a point to read the obituaries in Westchester County. But police say she wasn't grieving over dead friends or relatives — she was looking for new targets to rob.

A string of burglaries in the area over the last several months led Greenwich police to issue a warning to residents at the end of March: Have someone stay at home when you attend a funeral.

“Criminals read the newspaper, too, to get whatever intelligence they can gather,” John J. Slusarz of the Greenwich Police told Greenwich Time. “Someone passes away, the funeral time is listed, it can be assumed the house is vacant.”

Now police say 26-year-old Latonia Shelecia Stewart of the Bronx would read obituaries, find the names of the deceased's next-of-kin, then break into their home while they were attending the funeral, WPIX reported.

Police called it "a distinct residential burglary pattern throughout various areas within Westchester County," according to the Journal News. New York State Police had information on a potential suspect's car, a silver Acura MDX, that they provided to local police.

Then officers decided to set a trap.

Police say officers waited outside a home of a recently deceased resident and spotted a car that matched the description they'd been given. Police pulled over the car and found Stewart inside with property that had been reported stolen from a home back in February, according to the Bronx News.

She was charged with possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit burglary, according to NBC New York. She was released on bond.

It's not the first time an alleged burglar has used the obituary section to find targets. A Massachusetts man dubbed the "Obit Bandit" was arrested earlier this year for robbing homes as families attended funerals. Over the years, strings of similar burglaries have occurred across the country, including in Belleville, Illinois, and several counties in northwest Indiana.

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