When a thief stole Ellen Suckow’s station wagon, he took more than her car. He stole a big part of her life.
Clothes, small appliances, pictures - everything the 46-year-old woman needed to start over in a new city was crammed into her silver 1987 Subaru when it was stolen last month just hours before she planned to leave for her new home in Las Vegas.
“He got 35 years of her life,” Suckow’s 28-year-old daughter, who did not want to be identified, said of the thief.
Sheriff’s deputies recovered Suckow’s Subaru, and this week arrested the second of two people suspected of using the car during the burglary of a Valley construction site. Neither has been charged with stealing the car.
Only a few of Suckow’s personal belongings have been found.
“The big-ticket items are not what I’m concerned about,” Suckow said Monday. “It’s the person. It’s the who I am that they’ve taken.”
Still missing are most of the clothes that Suckow planned to wear to job interviews she had lined up in Las Vegas. Her microwave, stereo, sewing machine, sewing machine, sewing patterns, material, and resumes also were gone.
And, most importantly, a lifetime of pictures and negatives that recorded the Easter Sunday she spent in the mountains with her family last year, portraits of her godchildren, and other memories were lost.
Suckow, who had worked at an area dentist’s office for the past 10 years, moved to the Spokane Valley about a year ago. After last November’s ice storm, she decided to move to a warmer climate.
On March 2, she loaded the belongings from her Park Road home into her car. She planned to spend that night at her daughter’s South Hill apartment and then hit the road in the morning. Suckow said she was extra careful when choosing a parking spot that night in front of her daughter’s apartment building.
“I thought, ‘This will be great,”’ she said. “It’s well lit. There’s lots of traffic. Nothing will happen.”
Anger began to swell inside Suckow this week as she told of waking up the morning of March 3 eager to start her journey. Hands that had sewn bridesmaid dresses for her daughter’s wedding curled into fists of rage as she described peering out the window and seeing only pavement where she had parked her car less than 12 hours earlier.
“Not only did they take my transportation, they took my livelihood too,” Suckow said. “I was moving to a new city so I was taking with me what I’d need to start from the beginning.”
Suckow moved to Las Vegas two weeks after her car was stolen, taking only the clothes she was wearing before the theft and the few things friends helped her buy.
On Monday, deputies arrested Kelly Lynn Jones, the second of two people suspected of using Suckow’s car during the burglary of a storage shed at a Valley construction site.
Jones has not been charged in connection with the theft of Suckow’s car, but her boyfriend, Kevin Lewis Sanger, faces a charge of first-degree possession of stolen property in conjunction with the stolen car. Both have been charged with second-degree burglary for the construction shed break-in.
Sheriff’s Detective Tim Hines said the investigation into the theft of Suckow’s car is continuing.
A Washington State Patrol trooper said Sanger, 36, was driving Suckow’s car March 25 when he and Jones were stopped shortly after tools and other items were stolen from the shed. Sanger has been held in the Spokane County Jail since his arrest.
Jones told deputies Sanger began driving the Subaru about a month before he was arrested, according to District Court records. Sanger told Jones the car belonged to a friend she had not met, court records state.
Sanger declined a request for an interview.
Eager to get her belongings back and see the man accused of driving her stolen car prosecuted, Suckow took a bus back to Spokane last Friday. But more frustration awaited when Suckow arrived.
Her attempts to get information about the case from Hines were largely unsuccessful.
“I’m the victim, assist me,” Suckow said.
And she is angry that detectives waited until three days after Sanger’s arrest to search his home. The wait, Suckow said, provided ample time to get rid of her belongings, which she said were valued at about $17,000. When detectives did search Sanger’s home at 3511 E. Queen, they found less than $3,000 worth of Suckow’s things.
“That’s the sum total of my property,” Suckow said, pointing to two green Rubbermaid containers stacked neatly against a wall.
A few articles of clothing and her sewing patterns were all that were found. The rest of her clothes, her microwave, stereo, kitchen utensils, jewelry, her Bible and the pictures have not been recovered.
Hundreds of dollars worth of damage also was done to Suckow’s station wagon. Her insurance did not cover theft, forcing Suckow to pay to fix the window that was broken out and the rear wiper that was ripped off, and clean the car that now reeks of cigarette smoke.
“It was the most disgusting feeling driving that car back home,” said Suckow’s 30-year-old son-in-law, who also asked not to be identified.
The on-going investigation of Sanger and Jones complicated the search and the release of information, Hines said.
What Hines could tell Suckow about the investigation only added to her anger. Suckow said Hines told her Sanger may have used a valet key that fit another Subaru to get into her car. The detective also told her that Sanger’s rap sheet spans two pages, she said.
District Court records show 34 criminal complaints have been filed against Sanger, several of them drug charges. Superior Court records show Sanger was convicted on federal armed robbery charges in 1980, and for possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to manufacture in 1993.
As part of a plea bargain, Sanger was sentenced to a total of four months in jail for the drug convictions, which he served on a work release crew. He spent 40 days in jail after twice testing positive for cocaine during a year of community supervision following his drug convictions, court records show.
“This is not a child,” Suckow said. “This is a lifetime of crime.”
Suckow holds out little hope that the rest of her possessions will ever be returned to her, and is worried that even if Sanger is convicted of charges related to the theft of her car he will get only another lenient sentence.
“It just makes me sick to think that he’s going to be out of jail in a few days and somebody else is going to be his next victim,” Suckow said.
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