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Burglary suspects in vintage car heist plead not guilty

Thu., June 24, 2010

Two convicted felons accused of a burglary in which an antique Ford car was stolen pleaded not guilty this week in Spokane County Superior Court.

The suspects, Susan Burke, 48, and Shane P. Venziano, 34, were arrested June 7 after police found them inside a home at 2615 W. Dean Ave. A neighbor had called to report a black 1954 Ford car missing from the garage.

“It hasn’t been driven since 1975,” said owner Benjamin L. Franklin, 59, who doesn’t live at the home. Franklin’s grandfather bought the car new in 1954. “It’s something I remember riding in when I was 5 years old.”

Police connected the heist to a Spokane tow shop owner after Burke said the car had been stolen by her daughter and a man named Richard who owns a tow shop.

“They came prepared,” Franklin said. “They took it on a flat-bed truck.”

Police identified the man as Richard D. Ziesmer, who owns Pacific Towing and Recovery, 4028 E. Central Ave., according to court documents.

Detectives found the car at Ziesmer’s shop.

When Venziano was arrested, he had a stolen vintage White Chief tape measure and gold spoon in his possession, according to court documents.

“Ziesmer admitted that he bought the vehicle knowing that it was likely stolen,” according to court documents. “Ziesmer could not say who he bought it from.”

Ziesmer did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The antique car’s front fender and driver door were damaged during the theft, Franklin said. Franklin had the car back after three days and plans to restore it and drive it again.

Venziano and Burke pleaded not guilty Tuesday to one count of residential burglary each and are out of jail on bond. Both are convicted felons, including a manslaughter conviction against Venziano for the 2000 death of 17-year-old Carlosse Brown. Venziano was sentenced to 100 months in prison.

Ziesmer, 46, was arrested June 10 and left jail on a $5,000 bond June 14. He was to be arraigned Tuesday on charges of second-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and possession of a stolen motor vehicle, but no charges have been filed.

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