A former Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy allegedly broke into the houses of grieving families — using online obituaries to find out when they would be at funerals, authorities said Tuesday.
Janelle Gericke, 29, was charged with a single count of burglary stemming from an incident in February, where a family came home from a relative’s visitation and services to find her in their kitchen, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
When confronted, Gericke allegedly told the family she had been hired through Facebook to come and clean, according to a criminal complaint reported by the outlet. They asked her to leave and she did.
The criminal complaint lists at least a half-dozen other incidents in 2018 and 2019 where Gericke either tried to sneak into homes or successfully broke in.
Several of the alleged incidents occurred at houses of people listed as relatives in online obituaries, at the time that services were being held.
In one instance in February 2018, a victim’s doorbell camera caught Gericke going into and leaving the home while the owner was at a funeral, according to the complaint.
When the owner came back, a checkbook was missing. Gericke had apparently left a note that claimed she’d been at the house to pick up items she bought via Facebook Marketplace.
Over a year later, investigators pulled a print from the note that matched Gericke, the complaint said.
In at least two other instances, Gericke was spotted prowling near houses and claimed she was there to pick up items she’d purchased through Facebook, according to the complaint.
After a months-long investigation, cops set up surveillance in June at the homes of relatives who would be attending a funeral that had been in a published obituary. They allegedly saw Gericke attempt to break into two of the homes.
Gericke, who was hired in February 2016 as a corrections officer in the Jefferson County Jail, was fired in June.
It’s unclear why authorities waited until Tuesday to file charges.
Gericke is set to appear in Jefferson County court Dec. 30.
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