The latest step in the quest for owners of items confiscated from the home of convicted thief Bernard C. Welch Jr. will come on Saturday with the issuance of 9,000 subpoenas ordering people to appear in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
A large proportion of the stolen items recovered from Welch's Great Falls home in December 1980 has already been returned to owners who could make positive identification of their valuables. But 1,231 items--mostly gold chains and silverware look-alikes--have been claimed by more than one person, and it will be up to the court to decide who gets what.
The claims have been filed by 427 individuals, each of whom is to receive one or (almost always) more subpoenas to appear in the court, which plans to hold hearings on each of the 1,231 items.
It is the job of county sheriff's deputies to serve subpoenas, but, county spokeswoman Jean M. Van Devanter observed yesterday: "It would take the sheriff's department forever to make all those deliveries."
So, the sheriff's department is asking claimants to pick their subpoenas up at the Fairfax Judicial Center, 4110 Chain Bridge Rd. in Fairfax City between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday or Monday through Friday next week. Those who pick up their subpoenas will be required to produce positive personal identification.
After next week, Fairfax sheriff's deputies and law enforcement officials in other jurisdictions will begin fanning out over the Washington area to deliver the subpoenas that remain uncollected.
No dates have been set for the court hearings because county officials say they don't know how long it will take to serve the subpoenas.
Welch, convicted of murdering D.C. cardiologist Michael Halberstam, is serving a 143-year prison term.