Uniformly Upsetting

Medford Mail Tribune | Dec. 5, 2012 3:35 a.m. | Updated: Dec. 5, 2012 11:35 a.m.

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ROGUE RIVER — Dan McLaren had been preparing to donate his late father’s U.S. Navy uniform to the Woodville Museum in Rogue River. That plan was almost sidetracked when it was stolen, but a sharp-eyed area resident spotted it at a swap meet.

McLaren’s father, Richard McLaren, had worn the uniform on board the USS Corregidor during World War II, rising to the rank of ordinance chief by 1945. After his father died in February, Dan and his wife, Cindy, had an estate sale in early October at his home in the 100 block of Earhart Road.

After the sale ended, police said, Robert Michael Larson, 41, and Geri Leah Hlavinka, 43 — next-door neighbors who were renters — broke into Richard McLaren’s home and made off with numerous items, including the uniform and U.S. flag used at his military burial, sentimental items the couple had wanted to keep.

“It was that helpless feeling of not knowing where to start, what to do,” Dan said. “We felt plenty violated. Anyone that’s ever had anything stolen can tell you the same.”

Larson and Hlavinka eventually were arrested on burglary, theft and methamphetamine possession charges. A Jackson County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team issued a search warrant for their home Thursday.

Larson was being held in the Jackson County Jail on $20,000 bail after being arraigned on first- and second-degree burglary, and first-degree theft charges in Jackson County Circuit Court Friday, court records show. Hlavinka was held on $10,000 bail after being arraigned on first- and second-degree theft, first- and second-degree burglary, possession of methamphetamine and endangering a minor, as a 15-year-old was living in her home, police said. Both have preliminary hearings scheduled for Dec. 5.

“Both of them are frequent fliers within the jail,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Andrea Carlson.

The 15-year-old is now living with other family members, and police say the case has been forwarded to the Department of Human Services.

The uniform and flag have been returned, with the uniform recognized after it was purchased for $20 at a Grants Pass swap meet. Cindy McLaren said she went to a pawn shop looking for the uniform and other stolen items and left her contact information. A regular customer of the shop later reported he had purchased it at the swap meet.

A swamp ax Richard McLaren used while working as a logger was also returned. Dan and Cindy plan to donate all three items to the Woodville Museum, where the senior McLaren served on the board. Cindy said the museum was a large part of his life.

Several items are still missing. Cindy estimates about 100 in all were stolen.

“It really stabbed us in the heart,” she said.

Dan added that police are still investigating a number of pawn receipts and other leads. He remains hopeful more property will be found and returned.

“I think that we’re going to get some other items back,” he said.

The missing items include an antique quilt Richard’s mother sewed during the Great Depression while living in a lumber camp, with the names of all the camp residents sewn into it. Several of his tools also are still missing.

“There’s just a lot of history with it,” Cindy said.

The couple also had several random items of their own taken from Richard McLaren’s home. A small model airplane Richard built for Dan when he was a young boy was found broken at the suspects’ home.

Whether or not insurance will cover some of the stolen property is still uncertain.

“That’s kind of hanging. I don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Cindy said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.


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