ALLOUEZ - An Allouez Catholic Cemetery worker is charged with breaking into a mausoleum. Officials say he allegedly stole a custom guitar from a man recently laid to rest.
It was hard enough for Candace House to lay her father to rest. But when she found out the guitar he was buried with was stolen, she was devastated.
"That was the only wish my dad had was - to have that guitar by him, and he did. He had his arms wrapped around it. So that means he messed with my father while my dad was laying there," said House.
House's father was brought to Allouez Cemetery's mausoleum on Sept. 23. Sheriff's officials say that's when cemetery employee Steven Conard noticed the Fender Telecaster guitar, worth $2,000.
"One of the witnesses who's an employee made note that another employee made the comment, 'that's a "Tele," a really expensive guitar. I have to have that guitar, it's too expensive to be in a crypt,'" said Lt. Scott Semb of the Brown County Sheriff's Department.
Semb says the next day, a cemetery employee checked the casket, and noticed the guitar was gone. When officials questioned Conard, they say he confessed.
According to the criminal complaint, Conard told officials, "This isn't something I normally do. I just have a respect for fine musical instruments."
As word broke about the theft, those involved with the burial were shocked.
"I'm absolutely bewildered. I'm astonished. We've worked with Allouez Cemetery for 80 years, 85 years. And more wonderful people, you'll never find. They have to be doing head spins on all this, I'm quite certain," said Joe Schikten, President of Ryan Funeral Home, which worked with House's family.
The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay operates the cemetery. Deacon Ray DuBois says he too can't believe a trusted employee would steal.
"Our number one priority now is working with the family of the deceased so that we can assist them in reaching the closure they so well deserve," said DuBois.
That closure may not be easy. While the guitar has been returned, House and her family say the pain hasn't left.
"Do you know what we have to go through as a family because of what he did to our father?" said House.
Conard was released on signature bond. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison, and $25,000 in fines.
Authorities say they believe this is an isolated incident. Conard is due back in court on Oct. 13.
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