His­tor­i­cal items stolen

Vast Lodi es­tate sale can­celed due to bur­glars

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Oula Miq­bel

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.

STOCK­TON RECORD PHO­TOGRAPHS BY CLIF­FORD OTO

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.

CLIF­FORD OTO/THE RECORD

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.

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