The North Bend Eagle


Some of the stolen jewelry was found during a Saturday hunt with metal detectors in fields around the Widick home when the perpetrators ran, such as this bracelt with the children's names. There are still items missing and some that need repair.

Theft thwarted through neighbor's vigilance

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 10/2/19

There was a little excitement south of Morse Bluff last Wednesday, Sept. 25.

Frank Eckstein was checking on his cows and went by Ed and Heidi Widick’s house, noting a strange vehicle there. He came back a little later and saw two individuals, a male and female on the road carrying a jar of coins.

They claimed to have car trouble but when Eckstein tried to start the car, it started right up. He took the keys when he got out of the car. The two individuals juggled to regain control of the keys, in the process dropping the jar of coins. Then they took off running.

Eckstein called Heidi Widick saying he saw a couple with a 24-county car walking from her house with a jar of change.

Heidi responded without realizing what was going on, “Oh, yes, I have jars of coins in my closet.”

Then it hit her. She called her husband, Ed, at work in Fremont and then called the Saunders County

Sheriff Department at 10:58 a.m. And then she took off for home, as did her husband. The Saunders County Sheriff Department responded in force.

The two individuals had broken the screen door and front door to gain entry into the house. Widick said they had gone through the house, stealing jewelry, money and more.

“They went through everything,” Widick said, “putting things back after removing contents.”

Once the search was on, the Widicks and other bystanders were asked to move out of the area. The Widicks ended up at a neighbor’s house but kept in touch with their cell phones.

The individuals had run into a field and overgrown area. The state patrol was called and sent a helicopter to help in the search. After fuel became an issue with the helicopter, the Saunders County and state patrol canines were brought in to aid in the search of corn and bean fields, ditches and tree lines.

As things were winding down and officers were ready to conclude the search, Bret Zakovec and an off-duty deputy came in with drones. They were able to spot the two individuals pretty quickly.

“We got officers in the field and apprehended the individuals,” Saunders County Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz said.

It wasn’t the first time the individuals, Brandon Swanson, 18, of Scribner, and Rielee Wermers, 20, of Beemer, were up to no good.

“We were able to clear up three burglaries with that arrest,” Stukenholtz said.

Stukenholtz commended the neighbor who was paying attention to things that didn’t look right.

“That was the key to this,” Stukenholtz said. “I don’t recommend taking keys. If they’d had weapons there might not have been a positive outcome.”

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