2018-05-14 / Front Page

What was lost, is found

« »
Chance discovery leads to return of stolen items
By TAMMY WELLS
Senior Staff Writer

LEBANON — The  chance discovery of a sodden, dirty pillowcase along the roadside during an annual town-wide clean-up day has meant the return of some of the items a local couple had thought were gone forever.

Richard and Joanne Couture were away from their Lebanon home for just a short time one day last winter, but arrived home to find the door ajar, pried open, authorities said, with a crowbar.

They’d been the subjects of a home burglary.

“He went into the master bedroom and took the drawers and dumped them on the bed,” said Joanne Couture. Then the burglar took one of their pillowcases and began stuffing items inside.

He took much of Joanne’s jewelry, Richard’s vast coin collection he had amassed over 50 years, photos, a medal Richard had earned while stationed at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea in 1958, and more.

It was the second home burglary the couple had experienced — the first about 20 years ago. 

It was a sickening experience — the sort that gave the Couture’s a strange feeling knowing that someone had been in their house, rummaging through their belongings. It gives you pause when you leave your home, Joanne said, wondering what you’ll find when you return. 

The authorities were called and the investigation began and the case is now making its way through the court system.

Several months later, as the snow began to recede, a trio of youngsters, a couple of whom live on a fairly-well populated gravel road a few miles away, ventured out to take part in the annual Lebanon Clean-Up Day on April 21. It was a Saturday, and it snowed a little that morning.

Eli Tetreault, 13, his sister Sophie Tetreault, 11, and their friend Alex Marchand 13, were filling garbage bags with debris — lots of it, Elijah said, from an old board studded with nails to discarded beer cans and other items likely flung from car windows— when Sophie saw a hint of blue. 

“It was a pillowcase covered by leaves,” she said on Saturday. “It had a little bit of snow on it and it looked weird. We knew we had to pick it up.”

There were several items inside.

“We saw an old beat up jewelry box, some pictures, and an Air Force medal, “ said Eli.

They knew the items had to have been stolen — no one would just throw them away.

So their mother, Laura, took photos of the tattered, wet photos and some of the items and posted them on Facebook. sure enough, someone she knew recognized Joanne Couture in one of the photos and they made contact.

“As a kid, our home had been broken into, and I knew what that felt like,” Laura Tetreault said. 

She also contacted law enforcement, and Maine State Police came to photograph the items and told her it was okay to return them to the owners.

So the Tetreault family, along with Marchand, who was unable to take part in an interview on Saturday, visited the couple soon after they got the okay, and returned what they had found.

For the Couture’s, most of what they lost in the burglary is gone — most likely forever. But because three youngsters were diligently cleaning the ditches that day, and saw that flash of blue, a few items — ones that mean a lot — are back with them.

Among the items returned were Richard Couture’s Air Force medal, and a tiny pair of gold earrings Joanne’s mother had placed in her newly-pierced ears when she was a small child. 

“She looked at every item,”  recalled Laura Tetreault. “It was heart-warming to be able to give that back to her.”

The Coutures thanked the youngsters for returning what they had found. 

“(We have) two things that are very sentimental,” Joanne Couture said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.


Return to top