$ 47,000 price of jewellery from the home of the useless, “Albuquerque Journal

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

71-year-old Jeffry Phillip Brugger died alone in his deck chair in his Embudo Towers apartment, but his body was not found for several days.

Then, to add to the insult, someone appears to have walked in after his body was removed and ransacked the apartment he lived in for eight years and stolen thousands of dollars in jewelry, as well as a television and artwork.

His truck was gone too.

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“We came in and couldn’t believe it,” said Shelby Salvana, Brugger’s daughter. “I knew my father didn’t keep his place like that. It looked like a tornado had whipped through. A table was overturned and there were papers everywhere. Things had been thrown out of drawers and cupboards. It was bad.”

It is a mystery his family is now trying to solve.

Horrible discovery

Brugger was discovered on September 4 after neighbors reported a bad smell from the room. The medical investigator’s office told family members that he had apparently been dead for five to six days. He died of a heart attack, the family would later learn. The family was also told that there was no evidence of foul play or forced entry, and nothing appeared to be missing at this point.

Jeffry Brugger wrote this sign that was on the door of his apartment. A ceiling-mounted surveillance camera is located outside the door. (Marla Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

But at some point after his body was removed and a biological hazard cleaning team ransacked the home, family members walked into the home and found that $ 47,000 worth of jewelry had been taken. It also lacked a large flat screen TV, two Tiffany lamps, and some framed artwork.

Brugger’s brother, Bob Brugger, said none of the items, to the best of his knowledge, were insured.

Jeffry Brugger’s pickup truck had also disappeared from the parking lot of the 8010 Constitution NE public housing complex, which is mainly inhabited by elderly and disabled residents and operated by the Albuquerque Housing Authority.

    Jeffry Brugger had amassed a large jewelry collection before his death.

Jeffry Brugger had amassed a large jewelry collection before his death. (Courtesy of the Brugger family)

With no evidence of foul play or forced entry, family members said this week they believe it was “an inside job,” said Bob Brugger, who lives in Albuquerque and did not have a key to the apartment.

“Based on the information currently available to us, there is no evidence of wrongdoing by AHA employees,” said Linda Bridge, executive director of AHA. “We followed the correct protocol and secured unity in this type of situation.”

She identified the cleaning team as “a large, respected company specializing in biological hazard removal”. She did not say whether an AHA employee was present in the apartment while the crew was there.

Bridge said AHA officials would still go through weeks of security videos showing everyone walking in and out of the apartment or parking lot. This information will be given to the police, she said.

Unknown, Bridge said, is whether Jeffry Brugger provided copies of his key to other people, something beyond AHA’s control.

Bonnie Brugger, Bob’s wife, directly dismissed the idea.

“Jeffry didn’t give anyone a key, no way,” she said. “He was kind of a hermit and didn’t even give his brother a key.”

Break the news

Bonnie Brugger stands in front of the door of the ransacked apartment of her deceased brother-in-law.  The Albuquerque Housing Authority is reviewing video from a security camera conveniently located on the ceiling just outside the apartment.

Bonnie Brugger stands in front of the door of the ransacked apartment of her deceased brother-in-law. The Albuquerque Housing Authority is checking the video from a surveillance camera conveniently located on the ceiling outside the apartment. (Marla Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

An OMI investigator called Bob Brugger on September 4 to tell him that his brother had just been found dead. Bob said he would call Jeffry’s daughter in Riverside, California, deliver the message, and advise her to call the OMI.

She learned the body would be removed and examined to determine the cause of death and would likely not be released to the family for a week, so there was no need for her to rush to Albuquerque, Bob said.

The Bruggers then had a conversation with the Albuquerque police officer who responded to the Sept. 4 call at the apartment. This official informed them that the apartment had been extensively photographed and that there was no evidence of foul play or forced entry.

“Everything was intact and there was no evidence that the apartment had been disturbed in any way,” said Bob Brugger.

The police officer also told them that after they finished their official business they locked and secured the home and informed the AHA.

Salvana arrived from California around 7:30 p.m. on September 18. She was accompanied by her husband and mother. They drove around the parking lot but couldn’t find Jeffry’s pickup. The trio went to Jeffry’s second floor apartment only to find the door was unlocked and the apartment was being ransacked and there were “empty jewelry boxes” everywhere.

She immediately called 911 and a police officer was dispatched to the apartment and a complaint was filed.

At the same time, Bob and Bonnie Brugger were in Wisconsin handling the personal affairs of the Brugger brothers’ father, who had died months earlier and left a sizable inheritance to family members including Jeffry.

Jeffry had used that money to buy thousands of dollars in jewelry, mostly expensive watches ordered from a television station, said Bob, who found the amount after examining his late brother’s bank statements.

The Bruggers returned from Wisconsin in late September 23rd and headed to Embudo Towers early the next morning, only to run into someone in the parking lot driving a vehicle with an AHA logo on it. That someone was Matthew Archuleta, the AHA’s program manager for public housing.

After showing Archuleta’s ID, they went to Jeffry Brugger’s apartment. “The door wasn’t locked and he looked at me and said, ‘We’re going to have this lock changed,'” said Bonnie Brugger.

“It was a little late,” said Bob Brugger. “It should have been done right after my brother died to control access.”

While Brugger was still there, a caretaker came and swapped the tumblers on the latch, he said.

Empty jewelry boxes have been left behind at Jeffry Brugger's apartment in Embudo Towers, a public housing complex in Northeast Heights.  Jeffry Brugger had amassed a large jewelry collection before his death.  (Marla Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

Empty jewelry boxes have been left behind at Jeffry Brugger’s apartment in Embudo Towers, a public housing complex in Northeast Heights. Jeffry Brugger had amassed a large jewelry collection before his death. (Marla Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

Police agency spokesman Tanner Tixier said Wednesday that police are providing pawn shops with regularly updated lists of stolen items to be searched for. However, the items must be identifiable with a photo or a serial number or some kind of description.

That complicates things for the Bruggers. “We think we have some serial numbers,” said Bob Brugger. “But at the moment we mostly have a lot of empty watch and gem boxes.”

It’s not all bad news. At around 2:30 a.m. on September 25, a Bosque Farms officer performed a license plate check on a pickup truck he was tracking and confirmed that the vehicle had been reported stolen from Albuquerque.

According to a police report, the driver, Kenneth Montoya, 41, of Los Lunas, said he had “test drive” the vehicle that he said belonged to someone else who was selling it. Montoya was arrested and jailed for stolen property, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

Bob and Bonnie Brugger reclaimed the pickup truck, along with the vehicle key attached to Jeffry Brugger’s recognizable ball key chain – something that could only have been taken from the apartment, they said.

“It’s obviously an inside job,” said Bob Brugger. “It had to be someone with a key and someone who knew my brother had died and the apartment wasn’t occupied. The locks on the door should have been replaced immediately. I think at least that much is clear. “

Bridge said it is not the AHA’s practice to change locks every time a tenant moves out unless the security of the home is in question, nor do they change the locks if a tenant dies, it unless death is suspect. In that case, Bridge said the lock on the Brugger apartment was changed as soon as the family brought their concerns to the attention of AHA officials.

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