Man accused of using obituaries to steal from Metro Detroit homes of recently deceased

DETROIT – An accused high-end thief is now facing charges after reportedly breaking into dozens of homes across Metro Detroit.

Police said Jerry Ryan Ashley, 44, isn’t a typical smash-and-grab type and wasn’t interested in grabbing a TV and running. He’s accused of spending time looking for valuables people may not even realize are gone yet. He is tied to at least 12 different home invasions in Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, Novi, Farmington Hills, Ann Arbor, Shelby Township, Canton Township and more.

Police said he would read obituaries and target the homes of someone who recently died or entered homes when families were at a funeral. He reportedly would visit estate sales to look at items that may be inside the home.

“He did this at a very sad and vulnerable time for most families,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. “It’s unfortunate, but we must be vigilant about this issue.”

Police also believe he may have monitored social media and made moves based on when people would be posting about vacations or not being at home.

In some of the home invasions Ashley is tied to, authorities said he pretended to do yard work on the property before breaking in and stealing items.

If you have a situation where a loved one has died and you have concerns about the possessions inside you can contact the police to see if they could do patrols.

You also have to be very cautious about what information and details you post in an obituary and what you post on social media.

It’s also a good time to review your social media’s security settings to make sure only people you know can see what you post.

A preliminary examination for Ashley was waived and he will stand trial on charges of breaking and entering with intent. He is expected to return to court March 13.

More: Help Me Hank

About the Authors

Dane Kelly is a digital producer who has been covering various Michigan news stories since 2017.

Hank Winchester is Local 4’s Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV’s “Help Me Hank” Consumer Unit. Hank works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off people in our community.

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