Jefferson, WI — In what can can only be described as 'a new low', a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy has been arrested and charged with burglarizing the homes of people she knew would be attending funerals.
The former sheriff's deputy, Janelle Gericke, 29, of Jefferson, used the obituaries to stalk those mourning their lost family members — to rob them. She was finally caught when a family returned home early from a funeral and found Gericke in their kitchen.
"Jefferson County Sheriff Paul Milbrath and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office apologize to the people that they serve for the embarrassment and mistrust that this individual may have caused," the office said in a news release.
According to the criminal complaint, Gericke was hired in February 2016 as a corrections officer in the Jefferson County Jail. In 2018 and 2019, she appeared at several homes of people who were listed as relatives of the deceased in local obituaries, at times when the services were being held, or whom she knew or suspected would not be home for other reasons.
Last year, this thieving cop was caught on a doorbell camera breaking into a home in Watertown while a family was away at a funeral. While in the home, she stole the family's checkbook. To cover her tracks the burglar cop pretended to be conducting Facebook marketplace transactions.
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She left behind a note that read, "I was here to pick up the stuff through Facebook. I came in to the house and the items weren't by the door. So I didn't leave my money. I tried Facebook messaging you but you haven't responded."
It would take another year before investigators would put two and two together and realize that this cop was robbing the homes of people going to funerals. This public servant would eventually slip up and police pulled a fingerprint from one of her fake Facebook notes which tied her to multiple burglaries.
According to the report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
In October 2018, a Fort Atkinson couple were leaving their home around 6 p.m. to take their children trick-or-treating when they saw Gericke prowling near their home. The woman recognized Gericke because she bowled with the woman's husband and father, who also worked for the sheriff's office. The group would normally have been at practice around that time.
Gericke told the couple she didn't know it was their house and that she was looking for an address to complete a Facebook marketplace transaction. The couple did not recognize the address Gericke said she was looking for.
In January 2019, a deputy was driving past the Lake Mills home of a city employee who had died recently and whose funeral was then occurring. He saw someone on the porch and when he approached recognized Gericke as a fellow sheriff's employee. She said she was trying to buy something from Facebook and must have written the address down wrong.
She later messaged the deputy that she had found the right house and purchase a baby swing. The resident of the other address later told investigators she had not sold the baby swing on Facebook in January.
In February, a family returned to their Fort Atkinson home after attending a relative's visitation and service to find a woman in the kitchen. She said she had been hired through Facebook to do cleaning and didn't think anyone was supposed to be home. They asked her to leave and she did, in a small gray Chevy sedan with a black dog in the rear seat.
In early April, another employee of the sheriff's office had notified co-workers she'd be out of town a couple of days. When she landed at her destination, she got alerts on her cellphone from surveillance cameras. It showed a pregnant woman trying different doors of the home. Other sheriff's employees who saw the videos thought it looked like Gericke.
In May, some of the family members from the February confrontation picked Gericke's photo from among six photos of women with similar appearances. Investigators later went to Gericke's residence and identified her gray Chevy Cobalt and black Labrador retriever.
Finally, in June, investigators set up surveillance at homes of relatives who would be attending a funeral that had been in a published obituary, and of Gericke. They watched her go to one of the homes, in Fort Atkinson, and try to enter, then leave, go to another home and try to enter.
Although the burglaries were all tied to Gericke in July, police would wait nearly six months before arresting her this week. It is unclear why police waited so long.
While burglarizing the homes of people attending funerals is certainly a despicable move by a public servant TFTP has reported on similar misdeeds carried out by those sworn to uphold the law. Although he had yet to have his funeral, earlier this year, an Atlanta police officer was caught stealing from a murder victim. Atlanta Police Department fired Officer Keisha Richburg in July after her own body camera footage caught her stealing $500 out of the dead man's wallet.