Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Joseph Grego says he returned from vacation in March to find virtually the entire contents of his deceased mother's Jefferson home missing, emptied out, almost nothing left but bare walls.
"My mother's O'Keefe and Merritt gas stove is gone, along with table and chairs,” Grego said. “The stove was there, they took that to. They took off the faceplates. They took all the knobs off the cabinets.
"They even took the toilet seat."
From bedroom sets to light bulbs, more than $16,000 of property missing, even mementos he inherited from his dead parents.
Grego also said he knows who did it – his former tenants.
"I'm sure I know who did this,” he said. “They lived here for about three years. And when I went to Florida, I came back and the house was empty, the back lock on my door was gone and her lock was on the door. So that's how I know."
Jefferson Parish deputies have been to the property several times, generating three police reports. But now with the property slated for demolition, Grego is wondering why no arrests have been made.
"They haven't done a thing about it. It's been over four months,” he said. “They know she took the stuff."
But authorities say the case isn't that simple. Grego's tenant was the sister of a former daughter-in-law, throwing a domestic wrinkle into the case.
But Grego said the thin family thread should be irrelevant.
"There's no family connections, not with these people."
Frustrated, Grego launched his own investigation. That's when he found that thieves also took copper pipe and air-conditioning coils from two backyard A/C units.
Using documents and a prescription medicine bottle left behind, Grego matched two people living in the house with the names of two men who sold items to a Metairie scrap yard, right around the same time as the theft.
"Two names out of the three was there, and the man showed me the pictures of what was sold, and it corresponds to what was stolen off the back of the building,” Grego said.
But is Grego's own checkered history getting in the way? Grego was in the headlines in 1993, serving a year in prison for being a go-between in the failed murder-for-hire plot of car dealer Ronnie Lamarque.
"That's past. You did your time,” he said. “That was it, now it's their turn."
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said it is taking the case seriously, sending deputies and commanders to interview Grego and a variety of witness on several occasions. But a spokesman conceded that the case presents some unusual hurdles, hurdles that detectives are trying to resolve.
We also contacted the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office, which says the investigation remains open. Chief of Screening David Wolff said he can't comment further while the case is under review.
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