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Pistol stolen from Mercer Island found 45 years after theft

This antique pistol was stolen from an Island home in 1968. It was recovered earlier this month from a pawn shop in Tennessee after it was tracked to the crime through a national database.  - Mary L. Grady/Staff Photo
This antique pistol was stolen from an Island home in 1968. It was recovered earlier this month from a pawn shop in Tennessee after it was tracked to the crime through a national database.
— image credit: Mary L. Grady/Staff Photo

An antique Remington .41 caliber Derringer pistol, stolen during a South end burglary in the late 1960s has resurfaced more than 2,500 miles away in Cleveland, Tennessee, 45 years after it was taken.

The gun was stolen on March 8, 1968 from a house on north side of Pioneer Park, in the 8600 block of S.E. 63rd Street. The gun belonged to a couple who were in their 40s at the time, Chester and Dorothy Cook, who are now both deceased.

After the theft, Mercer Island police entered the gun into the National Crime Information Center database. At the time, it was a brand new database that had started out one year prior with nearly 357,000 records. Now, the database contains more than 11.7 million active records.

“Any time a gun or serious weapon is reported stolen, it is entered into NCIC, a national intelligence database, and remains in the system until it is found,” MIPD Commander Leslie Burns stated. “This is proof ‘the system’ works, as the stolen gun remained in the system all of these years, up to the point we were notified it had been recovered.”

The Mercer Island Police Department received a “hit confirmation” on Jan. 2, and the gun arrived by UPS from the Cleveland, Tenn., police department on July 8. It has been placed into property/evidence for destruction.

At the time it was stolen, the Derringer was described as an antique and worth about $100. The value today of the pistol would be about $700. Listings for the nickel-laden gun found on line, range from $600 to $2,000.

The couple had gone to see a movie together that March evening after work without returning home first. Their two grown children were away at college. When they returned home later and discovered the break in, they called police. Two police units responded. There was no sign of forced entry. Both the garage and the house were found to be unlocked.

Three other guns were also stolen, including a .25 caliber Colt, .38 caliber pistol and another Remington .41 caliber Derringer. A coin collection was taken along with several boxes of ammunition. The thieves also took the time to pull out the air cleaner from a 1955 unlicensed red Thunderbird convertible stored in the garage.

Perhaps what is most interesting is what was not taken. The police report listed the items left behind; There was a “very valuable stamp collection that was left intact” and “a chest full of various rifles” that had been left untouched. The liquor cabinet had been opened but no bottles were missing. “Throughout the house, all the closets had been gone through, but articles such as portable radios, tape recorders, cameras or silver were left intact,” the report said.

The thieves left through a pair of glass sliding doors, south toward Pioneer Park. The sliding door was found off its track. A bulb in a light over the driveway had been unscrewed. Police checked with neighbors who reported they did not see or hear anything.

Contacted last week, Susan Cook Delzell, the daughter of the couple, who now lives in Pennsylvania, says her memory of any burglary is hazy.

“I don’t recall specifically anything about a burglary,” she said. “I was away at college over in Walla Walla.”

“I do believe my dad had a gun collection at the house,” she said.

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