Historical items stolen
Vast Lodi estate sale canceled due to burglars
A planned estate sale in Lodi containing a vast collection of local historical items has been called off after it was discovered on Thursday that many items had been stolen the night before. The living estate sale of local historian Ralph Lea was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at his property on North Locust Tree Road, where Lea had accumulated a massive repository of historic mementos and documents.
It was discovered at 10 a.m. Thursday morning that many valuable pieces of the sale were stolen from Lea’s property at 15900 N. Locust Tree Road where the estate sale was scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.
The items were first discovered stolen by Annette Lores, and Eloy Lores, the owners of the Treasure Trove antique store.
“We noticed the pieces were taken at 10 o’clock, we were meeting with Mike Fitzgerald, of the Stockton Record, when we opened the doors, there were tables that had been completely emptied. Everywhere we looked things just looked like they were missing,” said Annette Lores.
“They took eight lay down cases of prized historical items, like a coin collection, fraternal memorabilia, military memorabilia, and antique swords,” added Eloy Lores.
The San Joaquin County Sheriffs Department has been leading the investigation; they dusted for fingerprints and took a witness statement from Nancy Schmear, Ralph Lea’s daughter who lives directly north of her father’s estate.
She recalls, “Around 8 p.m. Wednesday night, I heard a vehicle approach that had loud mufflers drive past our place. By the time I had gotten to the front door and looked outside, all I could see was headlights looking over, my father’s place. When I stepped outside, they drove past my house. I saw that in the passenger seat there was a small man or woman, with platinum blond hair and they were driving an older white truck. There was nothing about it that made it stick out. It didn’t have any chrome, or wheels that were jacked up,” recalls Schmer.
Schmer, Annette and Eloy Lores confirmed that the estate had been robbed the night before the advertisements in the papers had disclosed the address. “You know, I think it was just anyone who knows who Ralph is,” expressed Eloy Lores.
“You can Google his name and his address pops up and, the local enforcement believe that it is local to this area, because everything out here is rural, so it had to have been someone who was close enough to scout the area,” said Eloy Lores.
It is clear that whoever the burglars were, they did not damage the property or break any of the locks to force their way onto the property. “They actually came in through the back window, because it was a push window. There are locks on the doors to the collection, however, there was not an alarm system on the property at the time of the robbery,” said Eloy Lores.
Since the robbery, they have added an alarm system and cameras, and the property is under 24-hour surveillance while the collection is being secured, said Eloy Lores.
Unfortunately, these things tend to be common, especially in this area, there are people that get wind of an estate sale and start casing a property. “They normally take jewelry, tools, silverware in the hopes that it is real silverware. We work with estatesale.net and they post an address for the sale the day before, and Annette will contact the local papers and run an ad the day before a sale as well,” said Eloy Lores.
When asking Schmer her initial reaction to hearing the news that her father’s collection had been burglarized, she stated she was in shock, and she felt violated by the trespassers and thieves that made their way onto the property at night.
“My father has collected all his life, it’s his life’s work, and his passion, he began collecting little tobacco packages and he kept them in a cigar box under his bed,” said Schmer.
“It’s disheartening to see so much of it taken at once. My father would be speechless to know his things have been stolen. He was very attached to his collection, he remembers where he got every piece. When I visit him, I take a small box of items and he’ll remember where and when he got it. He just had a mind and a love for it,” said Schmer.
Lodi City Councilwoman Joanne Mounce, who is a member of the Lodi Historical Society, also expressed her anguish over the depressing news, “It is a very sad day for Lodi’s history. Historic relics have been stolen, and you have someone like Ralph Lea, who has given so much of himself to this community by keeping track of the pieces of history that this town had to offer.”
The Loreses and Schmer hope to hold an estate sale with what is remaining from Lea’s collection. There is no date as of yet, and it will not be held in the near future, but they have posted the items that were stolen on estatesale.net and have offered a reward for the arrest and return of the items.
Eloy Lores, owner of Treasure Trove Antiques in Stockton, was organizing an estate sale at the home of Ralph Lea in rural Lodi, when he arrived to discover that many of the items were gone. The elderly Lea now lives in a nursing facility and his family was organizing the sale when thieves broke in overnight and took may valuable items.
Historical photographs are among the things gathered for an estate sale at Ralph Lea's home in rural Lodi.
Nancy Schmer looks over some her father Ralph Lea's items that remain after a break-in and theft in a large shed at Lea's home in rural Lodi. Schmer was having an estate sale of her father's belongings organized when the break-in was discovered. The elderly Lea now lives in a nursing facility and his family was organizing the sale when thieves broke in overnight and took many valuable items.