PITTSBURGH - State police arrested a Pennsylvania man who they say stole a handheld video-game system from the casket of a teenager who had been killed in a Christmas SUV crash.
State police said they got an anonymous tip that enabled them to arrest 37-year-old Jody Lynn Bennett, of Mentcle, Indiana County, Wednesday afternoon at the home of a friend in Belsano, Cambria County.
Police contend Bennett grabbed a Nintendo Game Boy, three games, and an accessory light from the open casket during the public visitation at the Rairigh Funeral Home in Montgomery Township, Indiana County, on Monday evening. According to a criminal complaint, the dead boy's uncle confronted Bennett outside the funeral home, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, and he returned the Game Boy, only for the family to later notice the game cartridges and the light were missing.
Sgt. Michael Schmidt said that police recovered one of the three game cartridges when they arrested Bennett, but that they did not know what happened to the rest. Schmidt said he had handled other cases where burglars used obituary information to prey on families attending funerals, for example.
"But I can confidently say this is the first time in my 22 years that I've had anybody go into the funeral home while the family was there and take something right under their noses and try to get away with it," Schmidt said.
Bradley McCombs Jr., 17, was killed when the SUV he was driving skidded on a snowy road into a utility pole about 9 a.m. on Christmas.
Schmidt said he believed the Game Boy, an older model, had sentimental value to the family. The monetary value of the stolen items was $46.90, according to a criminal complaint.
McCombs' family did not immediately return a call for comment on Bennett's arrest. Earlier in the day, the teen's mother, identified by police as Sherrie McCombs, declined to comment on the theft.
The suspect's mother, Sharon Bennett, 56, called the allegations a shock and "a great embarrassment."
"My son's had a drug problem for quite some time, and we've more or less alienated ourselves from him," she said.
She said she, too, had lost a son in a vehicle accident.
"My family lost a son 12 years ago and my heart goes out to them," Bennett said.
She said her son went to school with Bradley McCombs Sr. and had gone to the funeral home to pay his respects. She said she suspects the theft was fueled by her son's drug problem.
She said she recently discussed her son's drug problems with her husband, specifically the topic of whether he might finally seek help.
"He needs to hit bottom and we thought on a couple of occasions he had. Hopefully this will do it," she said.
"It just makes me heartsick for the [McCombs] family because I know how I would feel. I never thought he would stoop that low," she said of her son.
Jody Bennett was in the Indiana County Jail unable to post $15,000 bond after his arraignment Wednesday on charges including theft, intentional desecration of a venerated object, and abuse of a corpse.
Though Bennett is not accused of touching or altering the boy's body, the criminal complaint said the last charge is warranted whenever a person "treats a corpse in a way that he knows would outrage ordinary family sensibilities."