Booty Call

Returning stolen treasure . . . and a SLUT ring

Photo by OCW staffMichele Samson came looking for Limoges boxes, embroidered pillows and jewelry, but like everyone else, the first thing that caught her eye was the SLUT ring.

"Wow," she said. "Whose is that?"

Exactly.

On an overcast Friday afternoon, in a storage facility attached to its headquarters, the Laguna Beach Police Department put on display items allegedly stolen by Debra Carroll, an estimated $72,000 worth. They were looking for the rightful owners of more than 50 watches, one dagger, four digital cameras, 18 handbags, eight sets of silver salt and pepper shakers, one 1987 Lakewood High CIF championship ring, silverware, prescription bottles, two CD players, and scads of jewelry ranging from emerald rings to gold bracelets to pearl necklaces to the aforementioned two-fingered ring adorned in costume diamonds spelling out SLUT in capital letters.

"Yeah, it'll be interesting to see if someone actually comes down to claim the SLUT ring," said Sergeant Jason Kravetz.

In the first few hours, no one did. Plenty looked, police reports in hand, rummaging around the long tables covered in merchandise, every now and then emitting a yelp of recognition, though just as many walked away empty-handed. "Well, I tried," said one woman already wearing enough baubles, including on her sandals, to choke a bejeweled pig.

So many came that they had to be staggered into the viewing area that Kravetz and partner Detective Paul Lichtenberg strolled though answering questions and asking a few of their own. Kravetz and Lichtenberg paid a visit to Carroll's oceanfront apartment three weeks ago investigating a slew of local burglaries. The pair suspected the burglar might be a woman and certainly knew something about jewelry. Carroll's brother owns a local jewelry store.

"Normally, someone committing a burglary would just dump a jewelry box," Kravetz said. "But in these cases, only certain things were taken; other things were left behind. Like they were shopping. She only wanted the good stuff."

Then again . . . the SLUT ring?

Anyway, Samson had seen the hand of a woman in this right away.

"When I found my Limoges gone and an embroidered pillow, I knew," she said. "I told the officer, 'A girl did this.'"

After about two hours with Carroll, during which she made them coffee, the police say the 51-year-old admitted to breaking into homes through unlocked doors and windows and taking property, mostly jewelry, some of which she was wearing at the time of her confession.

"She started taking it off and telling us where she got it," Kravetz said.

Kravetz and Lichtenberg then drove Carroll around town, and she pointed out the houses she had hit. One of them was Michele Samson's.

"The police told me that she said she liked my house a lot," Samson said. "Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

She was the early afternoon's big winner, finding mounds of watches, turquoise necklaces and the embroidered pillow.

"Is that, like, the stupidest thing to steal?" she asked. But there was only one Limoges box of the dozen taken from her house. Police believe Carroll sold and pawned a lot of the material to feed a drug habit.

"This isn't nearly all of it," Samson said.

She, her husband and their family moved to Laguna Beach last year after living in Chicago, where they had never had anything stolen. Now, she says, she doesn't wear any real jewelry in public, with the exception of her diamond earrings.

"And the only reason I do is because they're screwed into my ear."

Samson went back to browsing as the queue outside the facility grew. At the front of the line was a woman who said she was Carroll's best friend.

"I had no idea, none," she said gazing at the scene, appearing both awed and repulsed.

"Are these all people who had things stolen by Debra?" Told they were, she broke down and began to cry. "I had no idea, no idea."

By 7 p.m., 10 of the 60 people who had shown up had claimed at least one item. The SLUT ring remained unclaimed.

 
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