Thief Is So Fetching, Victim Is Forgiving
Police Camera Solved Mystery of Missing McLean Lawn Ornaments
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2004; Page B01
The thief -- caught in the act on police video that was broadcast on national television -- didn't show even a hint of remorse when he showed up on Ruth Breiner's McLean doorstep Friday evening.
The man with him began apologizing profusely, Breiner said, and handed over the ceramic fawns, chipmunk, squirrels and foxes that had decorated her front yard before they were stolen in the dead of night. Then a woman walked up, and she, too, said she was sorry.
But Magnum, the bandit, who happens to be a 110-pound black Labrador retriever, just sat on Breiner's stoop while his victim patted his head.
"He was just sitting there, that silly dog," Breiner, 75, said. "I couldn't get mad at him. They are big, old, slobbering dogs that are friendly as all that."
The mystery began in April, when Breiner noticed that a ceramic raccoon had disappeared from her lawn. Over the next few weeks, a fawn went missing, then a second fawn, and then a squirrel.
At first Breiner thought the thefts were the work of teenage pranksters and simply replaced the animals. But about a month ago, as the new animals disappeared, she began getting a little nervous -- and plenty fed up -- and went to the police.
Fairfax officers slipped a surveillance camera in Breiner's bedroom window and, to their shock, captured images of a Labrador making off with a squirrel, a chipmunk and a fox, Breiner said. Last week, police released the video to the media in hopes of identifying the suspect.
"It was actually refreshing," said Officer Sophia Grinnan, a police spokeswoman. "We thought it might be somebody targeting the elderly or some juvenile miscreants. To this date we don't make handcuffs" for dogs.
Magnum had delivered two figurines to his owners in recent months, Grinnan said, but they didn't learn the scope of his thievery until the Fourth of July weekend, when they discovered a stash of the animal figurines in their back yard.
Grinnan said no charges will be filed, though Magnum's owners, who returned the ornaments after seeing footage of their pet on television, have promised to keep him under "closer scrutiny."
Police said they don't know Magnum's motive, but Breiner, who is happy to have her animals back home, noted that the dog is a retriever.
"The detective said he never sniffed them, he'd just go right over and pick them up," Breiner said.
"He never bothered the baby rabbits or the mama rabbit and they were the most expensive of all. . . . He never bothered the bear either."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company