For months, police had been investigating a string of break-ins in Massachusetts.
The break-ins had something in common: The homes getting broken into belonged to people who were at funerals or wakes during the alleged crimes, according to police.
That led police to suspect the crimes had a culprit in common, too: Randy J. Brunelle, 35, of Plymouth, Mass. Brunelle was convicted of breaking into the home of a police officer’s mother in 2012 while the officer attended the mother’s funeral, police said. Brunelle spent 18 months in prison for the crime.
So on Friday, as Brunelle was spotted driving from Plymouth to Cape Cod, authorities who had been investigating the break-ins tried to catch him in the act.
Some detectives followed Brunelle’s gray Honda Civic as he drove. Other detectives went to homes in Barnstable, Mass., where residents may have gone at funeral services, police said. Then they waited to see what Brunelle would do.
Sure enough, police said, a break-in was reported in Cotuit, Mass. — and when detectives pulled Brunelle over as he headed back to his home in Plymouth, they found jewelry stuffed in his sweatshirt pockets, police wrote on Facebook.
When police showed the jewelry to the homeowner, who had been at her mother’s wake during the break-in, the woman said it was the same jewelry that had been stolen from her home, police said.
Police arrested Brunelle and charged him with breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony on Friday. Police have dubbed the suspect the “obit bandit,” for allegedly targeting homes where he assumes homeowners will be away at funerals or wakes.
Brunelle was also charged with two counts of felony breaking and entering and larceny from a building for two break-ins from September and December of 2017, police said. Those break-ins occurred at the Osterville, Mass., homes of two widows who were away at funerals for their deceased husbands during the alleged crimes, police said.
Brunelle was held at the Barnstable Police Department following his Friday arrest until he was released Saturday morning on $5,000 bail, police said. He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Brunelle declined to comment as he walked into court for his arraignment, the Cape Cod Times reports. But his attorney told Fox 25 that fighting off an addiction to heroin has “led to this downward spiral in his life.”
Brunelle pleaded not guilty in court on Monday, Fox 25 reports.
Police said that Brunelle is a suspect in “numerous” break ins in Plymouth and Mashpee. A search of Brunelle’s home revealed stolen jewelry, prosecutors said, and phone records and Brunelle’s driving put him at the site of several break-ins, Fox 25 reports.
Anyone who has been the victim of a break-in in the area during a loved ones’ funeral is encouraged to report the incident to Barnstable police.