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Police seek public's help to solve Elkhorn burglaries

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Sept. 10, 2007, 1:05 p.m.)

The burglars who cleaned out expensive electronics goods from Lyle's TV and Appliance over Labor Day apparently wanted to keep their clothes clean and food fresh.

After store employees went through a full inventory, they noticed two high-end refrigerators and a matching, top-of-the-line washer and dryer set were also missing.

The total retail value of the missing items - - more than 30 flat-screen televisions and 20 stereo receivers and amplifiers - - is over $200,000, said President Tom Schinke.

"They knew exactly what they were going for," said Lynette Sendt, company bookkeeper.

The burglars cut a hole in the roof and entered the store through the attic scuttle, probably in the early morning Monday, store officials said.

The power was turned off, the alarm system disabled and the store's two trucks were backed up to the loading dock to haul away the stolen goods, Schinke said.

When they were done, they brought the trucks back and parked them in the identical spots. The burglars left through a service door that could be locked from the inside and the store was secure when Schinke went in Monday to pick up an item he needed for home.

The burglary is similar to one that occurred recently at a family-owned electronics store in Fond du Lac, said Elkhorn Police Chief Joel Christensen.

"During that burglary, they also utilized their trucks," Christensen said. "However, where it was dissimilar is they didn't return those trucks. A vehicle (from that burglary) turned up in Milwaukee and another in Chicago. I believe they have two people in custody."

One of the burglars, caught before the weekend, had the telephone number for Lyle's TV in his cell phone, Christensen said. Police are investigating to see if there is a connection.

Whoever broke into Lyle's had "professional" experience, Christensen said.

"That's definitely an accurate word to use, compared to the typical burglary for us," he said.

Elkhorn had six more "typical" burglaries over the weekend.

Broken into were:

* The Elk Restaurant on Walworth Street, reported Saturday.

* The Elkhorn Income Tax Service on Lincoln Street, reported Saturday.

* The Arrhythmia Center on Geneva Street, reported Saturday.

* Fiddlestickes Restaurant on Highway 12/67, reported Sunday.

* Pure Hair and Body, on Highway 12/67, reported Sunday.

* Budget Blinds, on Highway 12/67, reported Sunday.

Cash and other small items were taken in those burglaries.

Police are unsure if they are related to the break-in at Lyle's TV and Appliance.

The burglars at Lyle's also tried to break into the soda machine with a pry bar and drill and took petty cash from the register.

"They ate some of my red-hot jawbreakers," said Sue Schinke, Tom's wife and company secretary, trying to shed some humor on the situation.

But losing more than 120 pieces of expensive equipment has been anything but fun for the family-owned store that has been at the same Wisconsin Street location more than 50 years.

"It kind of makes you realize how vulnerable you are no matter where you are, your business or your home," Sendt said.

Employees at Lyle's were back to work Tuesday, re-ordering inventory and focusing on the appliance part of the business. They didn't expect a slowdown.

Only two customers had items waiting to be delivered that were stolen. The burglars got one broken TV that was in for service. Its owner will get a new TV and the burglars, at least a small sour taste in their mouth, Tom Schinke said.

Police need help

Have information on the burglaries? Call the Elkhorn Police Department at (262) 723-2210. Tipsters can also call the Walworth County Crime Stoppers Hotline at (262) 723-2677 and remain anonymous.

Police are looking for anybody who saw the two white Lyle's delivery vans at odd hours over the weekend. They are also asking people to remain vigilant of anyone selling new stereo or television equipment at low prices or without original packaging.

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