Cemetery Worker Stole Guitar From Army Vet's Casket

September 28, 2011
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SEPTEMBER 26–A Wisconsin cemetery worker allegedly removed a valuable Fender guitar from the casket of a 67-year-old Army veteran who died last week and had told family members that he wanted to be buried with the instrument, which was his “pride and joy,” according to court records.

Steven Conard, a 39-year-old grounds worker at the Allouez Catholic Cemetery, was arrested Saturday and charged with felony “theft from person or corpse.” Conard, who plays in a band, reportedly confessed to stealing the Fender Telecaster when confronted at his Green Bay home by Brown County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

“This isn’t something I normally do,” Conard said, according to a Circuit Court criminal complaint. “I just have a respect for fine musical instruments.” The cream-colored guitar was recovered from Conard’s living room, where the instrument was on the floor “in plain view.” Conard is pictured in the above mug shot.

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The $2000 Telecaster had been placed in the casket of Randall Jourdan, who died last Monday. Jourdan, a father of nine and grandfather of 29, “liked to play guitar and watch baseball,” according to an obituary.

William Jourdan, one of the decedent’s sons, told investigators that his father had played guitar for more than 40 years “and that this guitar was his father’s pride and joy.” Cops added that, “William stated Randall told everyone that he wanted to be buried with the guitar.”

After Jourdan’s September 19 death, his casket was transported to the cemetery, where it was placed in a mausoleum building. A funeral director told Conard and another cemetery worker, James Lang, that “a guitar was in the casket with Randall’s body and the family wanted to verify that it was still there prior to the casket being placed in the burial chamber.” Jourdan is seen at left.

When the funeral director left to rejoin Jourdan’s family members, Lang told deputies that Conard opened the casket and remarked, “That’s a Telly, a really expensive guitar. I have to have that guitar. It’s too expensive to be in a crypt.” Lang, who recalled that the Telecaster was atop Jourdan’s body, added that as Conard closed the casket, he asked “if he would say anything if he took the guitar.”

Lang, who said he shrugged off Conard’s comment, subsequently checked twice to make sure the guitar was still in Jourdan’s casket, which was sitting in a burial chamber about ten feet off the ground. The opening to the chamber was temporarily covered with curtains, until a permanent stone face could be attached.

When Lang checked the casket a second time, he discovered the Fender missing and contacted his supervisor, who summoned sheriff’s deputies. When apprised of the guitar’s pilfering, Jourdan family members “were distraught over the situation.”

The Telecaster was subsequently returned to Jourdan’s kin and “final entombment” was completed Saturday, according to a press release from cemetery officials. Conard, who appeared today in court, remains in custody at the Brown County jail. (3 pages)

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