His neighbors said he told them about a family member who owned a flower shop in North Idaho.
But in the end, police believe Robert P. Sullivan stole flowers from gravesites last weekend, then sold them for a fraction of their price outside his North Stevens Street home.
Police are recommending prosecutors charge him with second-degree theft and first-degree trafficking in stolen property.
No charges have been recommended against a woman who lives with him and was spotted selling the flowers early Monday.
“I find it hard to believe that she didn’t know (the flowers were stolen), but that’s different than getting enough to arrest her,” said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.
Sullivan, 45, was “cooperative” with the investigation and has not been arrested, police said. He’ll likely be summoned to court if prosecutors file charges. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Police called the thefts “very alarming to our community.” Similar thefts have been reported at other cemeteries in the area.
The investigation began Monday when employees with Catholic Cemeteries of Spokane spotted a woman selling the colorful plants — sans the American flags — and realized they matched the flowers that had gone missing from three cemeteries after Memorial Day weekend.
Police confirmed the flowers were the same sold at the cemeteries for $25 to honor loved ones on Memorial Day.
Employees recovered 61 stolen planters from outside the Stevens Street home Monday. Employees placed 758 planters on gravesites May 28.
Some buyers had already picked up the planters, so it’s impossible to know how many may have been stolen, but police estimated Sullivan’s haul at 150 plants — or $3,750.
Sullivan is believed to have stolen the flowers between June 4 and June 6.
A cemetery employee watched as 22 were sold within an hour early Monday. Neighbors had the planters lining their porches, and dozens of people inquired about how to return the stolen flowers after news of the thefts broke Monday.
Catholic Cemeteries asks anyone who purchased a stolen planter to return it to the Holy Cross Cemetery, 7200 N. Wall St.