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Raid, arrest nets burglary loot

A Saturday morning raid by Island County Sheriff's deputies and detectives uncovered several years' worth of stolen items and arrested a burglary suspect who will need to answer to a number of charges.

Led by detective Mike Birchfield, the officers served a search warrant on occupants of a Rhodie Lane, Freeland, home at 8 a.m. Saturday. Inside they found more than $30,000 in stolen items from 17 burglary cases under investigation by the sheriff's office. In addition, investigators found stolen firearms, illegal narcotics and two devices suspected to be pipe bombs.

Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley said Monday deputies and detectives arrested John A. Stumpf, 44, in connection with the stolen items, the drugs and the bombs. Stumpf, who was arrested by waiting deputies at his home when he returned from buying doughnuts Saturday morning, appeared in Island County Superior Court yesterday to have his bail set. According to Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks, Stumpf's had his bail set at $250,000. His trial could begin anytime during the next two months.

Stumpf's wife, Janice, was also arrested during the raid, for obstructing justice. She was released later in the day on her own recognizance.

The arrest could close the investigations of 17 commercial, residential and construction job site burglaries on South Whidbey. Sheriff Hawley said investigators found stolen items at Stumpf's home that can easily be linked to a number of crimes, including a 2001 break in at Freeland's Ace Hardware and a rash of job-site burglaries over the past year.

Hawley said Stumpf was a "person of interest" at the time of that crime and in a number of other burglaries.

"This guy's been a person of interest for some time," Hawley said.

Stumpf recently became the focus of a number of cases. An investigation headed by Det. Birchfield and Detective Sue Quandt finally turned up enough evidence by Saturday morning to convince a superior court judge to sign a search warrant. Hawley refused to comment on what the evidence was, saying that releasing such information could jeopardize the investigation.

By the end of the day Saturday, investigators had filled a moving truck with stolen hand tools and other allegedly pilfered items they found in Stumpf's home. They had also written up more than two dozen charges against Stumpf, including 17 charges of first degree possession of stolen property, two counts of possessing stolen firearms, one count of trafficking stolen merchandise, one count of criminal conspiracy, two counts of possession illegal explosives, one count of possessing and illegal firearm and one count of possessing a controlled substance.

Hawley said the evidence gathered at the scene of the raid could tie Stumpf to an area "biker gang" dealing in methamphetamines, loan sharking and stolen property. A continuing investigation of that gang will probably pursued by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, he said.

The brings an end to a lengthy and expensive investigation. Hawley said the raid alone cost his department up to $6,000 in overtime.

It also required considerable work on the part of the county prosecutor's office. Prosecutor Banks said one of his deputy prosecutors, Leslie Tidball, has been working for months to help the sheriff's office get Stumpf into a court room.

"It's a case that's been in the hopper for a long time," Banks said.

Stumpf will be officially charged sometime this week.

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