A woman who says she was the victim of a burglary is hoping the person or persons who stole an estimated $27,000 in jewelry from her develops a case of a guilty conscience over the holidays and returns her possessions.
Hillary Maley, a massage therapist who has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for 30 years, said one or more persons entered her house while she was out of town Nov. 28 and picked through her belongings, taking many pieces of jewelry, as well as personal heirlooms that are valuable to her, but have little street value.
"The door was kicked in, which is strange because it's never locked," Maley said.
The interior of her house also experienced a gentler type of ransacking than would be expected in a burglary, according to Maley. For example, all the drawers to cabinets, dressers and jewelry boxes were pulled open but the contents remained neat and orderly. In another case, one pair of gloves and one coat among many were taken out of storage and laid out on the floor but the other coats were rifled through.
"Things were just placed," Maley said. For that reason, she thinks someone knew she was traveling out of the area, entered the house and staged a burglary.
Maley suspects loose lips on social media might have tipped off the person or persons who entered her home. She was vacationing in Hawaii the week of the burglary and posted pictures on her Facebook page. A friend asked her on Facebook, "Are you there now?" and she answered affirmatively. She said she is kicking herself for that now because that would have alerted people who know she lives alone that her house was unguarded.
In addition, she hired a pet-sitter to look after her two cats and dog while she was away. The pet sitter let people know she was pet sitting for Maley through comments on her own Facebook page and the old-fashioned way, by "blabber-mouthing it" in a Basalt bar, according to Maley. She stressed she wasn't accusing the pet-sitter of directly being involved in the burglary, but she might have inadvertently tipped someone off.
The pet-sitter also had three people at Maley's house for a party one night while Maley was on vacation. Investigators with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office interviewed the party attendees but don't suspect them of involvement, Maley said. The pet-sitter hasn't been interviewed yet, she said.
The pet-sitter left Maley's house with Maley's dog at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, and didn't return to the house until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, when she discovered the house had been broken into, Maley said. Maley returned from Hawaii the next day.
Nov. 28 is the same day that two men kicked in the door of a home in Basalt. The men were gathering valuables when the homeowner, a woman in her 70s, emerged from a bedroom after taking a shower, according to Basalt police. One of the men pointed a gun at her and told her to go back to the shower and wait for five minutes before emerging, police said. The woman was unharmed but traumatized, authorities said.
Two arrests were made in that case but the Eagle County District Attorney's Office decided against filing charges against one of the men. He had an "airtight" alibi that he was at work, according to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.
A spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff's Office confirmed there is an active investigation of a burglary of a home in Fryingpan Valley. Investigators are looking for a possible connection to the Basalt incident, the spokeswoman said.
When Maley returned to her home, she found numerous pieces of jewelry missing that feature turquoise and silver as well as family heirlooms, including items owned by her deceased older sister and her grandmother. Maley estimated that "hundreds" of items were missing, but many were also left behind. She said most of the items have little value resale value, which makes their theft even more tragic.
She rented the house Oct. 1. It is located about 5 miles up Fryingpan Road but it's relatively difficult to spot. In addition, there are empty "McMansions" that are much more inviting to people casing the area for burglary targets, she said.
"This is not a house that says 'score,'" she said. "It's nearly impossible that this was random."
Maley said she was "terrorized" when she first got home and wasn't able to sleep for the first 10 days. She was afraid to stay alone because she feared someone might return. "I felt like a sitting duck in this house," she said.
She has since steeled her resolve. "I would not suggest that anyone enter this drive; with my fiery Irish temper and raging hormones, they would have better odds wrestling a grizzly bear," Maley wrote in a letter to the editor of The Aspen Times.
She also installed a deadbolt on her door and took bear spray and an ax handle from an ex-boyfriend for personal protection.
Maley challenged the alleged burglar or burglars in her letter to do the right thing and return her items in her mailbox before the sheriff's office closes in on them. She said she knows it is a "shot in the dark" but one worth taking because she wants her items back. If anyone has information about the burglary, she urges them to call the Eagle County Sheriff's Office at 970-328-8500.
"It's all stranger than fiction," Maley said. "Now it's just annoying."