December 30, 2002
Jeweler and Family Killed At Home
Marco Pesce, a 38-year-old Livonia, Michigan, jeweler, was killed along with his mother and three children on Dec. 21 at home, according to reports in The Detroit Free Press, The Associated Press and The Detroit News. Two parolees, Dennis Lincoln, 27, of Flint, MI, and John Wolfenbarger, 31, of Detroit, MI, have been arrested and charged with the murders. Police say the suspects watched several jewelers in Livonia and Dearborn, MI, before choosing Pesce, who ran a strip mall store called Italia. The two ex-convicts had heard in early December about a safe full of jewels and gold in the Pesce house, newspaper reports said. It was unclear to police how the suspects learned Pesce kept jewelry at home.
The suspects followed Pesce for two days before going to his home, where they posed as deliverymen and were admitted by Maria Vegato, 68, Pesce's mother, who was visiting from Italy at the time. Sometime later, Pesce dropped off his three children, ages 12, 9, and 6, at home while the gunmen were inside, and returned to his store. The suspects tried to get the kids to open a 3,000-pound safe, but they apparently did not know the combination. They then had Pesce's 12-year-old son called Pesce to say there was an emergency at home, drawing him into the home as well, where he apparently opened the safe. The home was also ransacked and all five victims were executed from behind.
Wolfenbarger and Lincoln were paroled from prison this year. Both men were in compliance with their parole officers, said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. The defendants, in addition to the premeditated murder counts, are charged with five counts each of felony murder and armed robbery and one count each of home invasion, as well as being felons in possession of a firearm.
John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers Security Alliance, told Professional Jeweler the Livonia case was not typical of home robberies of jewelers. Though a couple of jewelers' home invasions occur a year, he said, they usually involve either a home robbery without homicides or the jeweler is forced to take the invaders to his store where they rob the store's inventory. The execution-style slayings that occurred also are very rarely seen in jewelry industry shootings, said Kennedy. They are more common to the illicit drug trade, he said.
To minimize risk of at-home incidents, JSA recommends jewelers not keep merchandise in their homes, install an alarm system and outside lighting with a motion detector, and refuse to open the door to unexpected visitors or delivery people. Also, get an unlisted phone number, keep a cellular phone nearby at all times, vary your route to work and instruct family members, babysitters and neighbors to stay alert and follow security procedures when necessary.
Kennedy said it's particularly important for jewelers to go over safety and security rules with relatives and friends who visit their homes, such as never opening the door to strangers. He also said it might be worth developing a code phrase for family members to use on the phone to alert jewelers there's trouble at home. The phrase should be a statement unlikely to arouse the suspicions of robbers. This strategy is similar to one used in many jewelry stores among employees who want to alert one another that a suspicious character has entered their store.
Peggy Jo Donahue