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Christmas cookie burglar foiled


Scott Hunter

The Coulee Community Choir performs at St. Henry's Catholic Church Sunday afternoon, just before heading to the church's fellowship room with the audience for coffee and cookies, which had to be replaced after a theft the day before.

A Grand Coulee man ended up in Grant County jail after a police search for missing Christmas cookies and other items led them to him Saturday.

Arrested and jailed was Jeffrey Muellner, 56.

The cookies, various decoration and more had been put in the kitchen area of St. Henry's Catholic Church, where the Coulee Community Choir was set to hold its annual concert on Sunday.

Choir practice ended about 9 p.m. the previous evening and everything was OK at that time, but when volunteers came to the church Saturday morning to set up for the concert and related raffle items, the cookies, as well as several other items, were gone.

Other items missing included several gifts that were to be raffled off, paper plates, utensils and a tablecloth, totaling about $1,000 in value.

While investigating the loss, church officials found that a large tote holding Christmas decorations and two unique Christmas caroler decorations was also missing.

A large blanket that didn't belong to the church was found in the restroom.

Police followed prints in the snow to a location on Wiel Place where they ran into Muellner carrying two large plastic bags. When police asked what was in the bags, Muellner said he "was bringing some of his belongings up from Coulee Dam," the police report stated.

When Sgt. Gary Moore asked to see what was in the bags, Muellner said he "did not think he had to show" the officer. Moore told him if he didn't he would be detained as a suspect in the cookie burglary at the Catholic church.

About this time, Daryl Walker, who lives nearby, said about 30 minutes earlier Muellner had left a backpack at his door. The backpack contained SOS pads, paper towels, personal clothing and a pair of shoes. The imprint on the soles of the shoes matched those found near the church.

Muellner was arrested, and when the garbage bags were opened, cookies that were planned for after the concert on Sunday were inside, along with many of the missing items.

Police later found the tote bag behind the church and recovered the unique carolers and other items.

Muellner was taken to Grant County jail.

As the after-concert crowd gathered for cookies and coffee in the St. Henry's fellowship hall Sunday afternoon, Music Director Kay Wallace praised the quick response by police, which had saved several valuable figurines brought by a choir member to help decorate.

Wallace also noted they didn't serve the recovered cookies, but obtained new ones.

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