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Shrine: Recent burglaries not investigated by police

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Police did not investigate eight recent burglaries and vandalism at the Shrine of St. Terese because the shrine's caretaker didn't know of any possible suspects, the caretaker said.

Jody Liliedahl, caretaker for the religious shrine on Glacier Highway near Amalga Harbor, said today the shrine was burgled at least eight times between July 24 and Aug. 13. Each time, money was stolen and property was damaged, Liliedahl said.

The shrine is run by the Roman Catholic diocese in Juneau and includes a chapel, a caretaker's lodge and public cabins.

Liliedahl said he filed three reports with police about the crimes, and police refused to go to the shrine to investigate.

"The police never came onto the scene because we couldn't point to anybody who could have done this," he said. "So far it's been up to us to try to catch the person or persons doing this. Not that I'm complaining. I understand they don't have the manpower available. But the police said unless we have something solid, like we see somebody doing this, there really isn't anything they can do.

"My wife and I are the caretakers here and we have one full-time volunteer. So we've just been trying to keep our eyes open and on the money. So far, though, all we can do is scour the grounds and scratch our heads. We just can't monitor 24 hours a day."

Police Capt. Tom Porter, spokesman for the department, said if an officer told Liliedahl police would not come to the scene to investigate without a possible suspect, the officer was wrong, and such a response is not proper procedure. Porter told the Empire on Tuesday afternoon he would look into the matter to see what, if anything, has been done to investigate the shrine burglaries. The information had not been provided by midday today.

Liliedahl said whoever broke into the chapel broke the window and tried to pry open the front door, damaging the door frame.

Liliedahl also said the door to the sacristy, a storage area for sacramental items and clothing, was damaged. The hasp and door frame to the gift shop also were damaged as was the cash box inside.

Liliedahl said the burgler used a straightened coat hanger to fish money out of a cash box in the gift shop. The shop is not staffed, Liliedahl said. People place money into a locked cash box on the honor system.

He did not know how much money was stolen. He said, however, the burglar left behind coat hangers and screwdrivers. Liliedahl said he estimated the total damage to the property to be between $500 and $1,000.

Liliedahl and his wife have shortened the gift-shop hours. The store had been open from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., but now closes a few minutes before dark, he said.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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