Anchorage family tracks down, confronts burglary suspect accused of stealing their relative’s ashes
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Video captured by an Anchorage family’s doorbell Monday shows two men backing a red SUV up the driveway.
In a matter of minutes, the men carried a safe and other valuables out the front door, leaving it wide open as they loaded the stolen items into the vehicle and drove away.
“It was a total of 10 minutes they were in the house,” said Chuck Gielow.
Gielow and his fiancé live there. He was at work when it happened. His fiancé had just left the house for the first time in a week to go to a dentist appointment. A neighbor saw the open door and called them.
“They got everything,” said Gielow. “I mean, they got her jewelry chest, they got our safe, they got my jewelry chest … it had all of her grandma’s jewelry and stuff. I had letters from President Obama wishing my grandfather a happy hundredth birthday, some coins that we got from the National Guard when they celebrated him being the oldest vet in Alaska.”
Some of the belongings stolen might not mean much to someone else but are priceless and irreplaceable to the couple, including the ashes of her sister who passed away nearly a year ago.
“How could you be so heartless?” Gielow questioned. “When you open up the urn and you see that little chip there, you know that’s somebody.”
Gielow’s fiancé posted a video captured by the doorbell on social media and someone recognized the vehicle. They got a possible name, looked up known addresses associated with the name, then the two of them along with Gielow’s nephew hopped in their car to look for the suspects.
They got lucky, spotting the vehicle in the first area they looked, the 4300 block of Spenard Road, and there was a man inside.
“He got out of the car and then he started volunteering, ‘Oh yeah man, I know I saw it on Facebook, I know you guys are looking for me.’ And then he opens up the trunk of his car,” said Gielow.
Someone in the group recorded a short video of the encounter. The suspect, later identified as 37-year-old Jonathan Notestine, tells them, “Whatever I got, it’s gonna go right back to you guys.”
Notestine said he only knew the man he was with by the name “Zip,” then proceeded to offer the family items in his car.
“Is this your vacuum, sir?” he asked.
“No, sir,” Gielow is heard answering.
“I ended up with all sorts of stuff,” Notestine said, turning back to the pile of random items in his vehicle.
Gielow said they parked Notestine in and called for help, but it took nearly an hour for the Anchorage Police Department to arrive.
“It’s like, well how much longer do we got to keep this guy detained here because sooner or later he’s either gonna walk off or we’re gonna have to pin him down or something,” said Gielow.
The exchange remained peaceful, he said, as the family tried to keep Notestine talking and occupied. The man had cords from their stolen computers, one of their birth certificates, power tools and one watch in his vehicle, according to Gielow, but he didn’t have the computers, the safe, the ashes, the coins or the jewelry.
“When you buy a piece of jewelry for your wife or your significant other, you save $50 every paycheck. You save $20 every paycheck. It took years to get some of that stuff, and it’s nothing to them, they don’t care,” said Gielow.
APD eventually responded and the family shared the information and evidence they’d gathered with police. Notestine is now in custody, facing burglary and theft charges.
After Gielow and his fiancé called into his telephonic arraignment hearing, the judge set Notestine’s bail at $5,000.
In hindsight, Gielow believes the suspects were casing their house. The day before the burglary, a masked man wearing a reflective jacket rang the doorbell twice and peering into their windows.
When asked through a speaker on the doorbell what he needed, the man said he was in the neighborhood to pick up a motorhome and wondered if he had the right address. He was told he had the wrong house and quickly left.
“Just be aware of your surroundings,” Gielow said, and take care of each other. He was grateful his fiancé had left the house before the break-in, and thankful his neighbors called to let him know something wasn’t right.
“I thank God that it could have been a lot worse,” he said.
Gielow is hopeful someone will recognize the second suspect and believes if he is caught, there’s a chance they could get their other belongings back.
He and his fiancé also believe some things were tossed out the window as the men drove, based on statements made by Notestine, and are asking anyone who comes across discarded paperwork, a tan safe, empty jewelry boxes or a large flower bag to report it.
APD did not agree to an interview but sent an emailed statement detailing its response to the burglary.
According to APD records, officers arrived at Gielow’s home 15 minutes after the burglary was reported, but it took officers 53 minutes to respond to the scene where the family confronted Notestine.
“An officer was immediately dispatched when one was available,” wrote MJ Thim, director of Community Relations. “At the time of the call from the victims, we were responding to emergency calls such as reports of suspicious circumstances, shots fired and citizens in life-threatening situations.”
Thim noted that the department is not short-staffed due to the pandemic and encouraged members of the public to assist APD by reporting suspicious activity but avoid taking matters into their own hands.
“Our officers have the required training and skills to handle these calls and our number one goal is to keep the public and our officers safe,” Thim wrote.
Anyone with information about this case or another crime can contact APD by calling 311 for non-emergencies and 911 for emergencies.
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