July 30, 2013

Old Orchard family devastated by storage unit theft

Memorabilia, photographs, heirlooms and an antique desk were all stolen during the burglary in Shapleigh.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

An Old Orchard Beach man says his family lost nearly everything of sentimental value when burglars broke into his self-storage unit in Shapleigh.

click image to enlarge

Alex MacPhail said the burglars cut the lock to his unit and stole antique furniture, memorabilia, personal photographs, jewelry and family heirlooms, including an antique, 7-foot-tall Governor Winthrop desk. Above, a replica of the stolen desk.

Photo by Alex MacPhail

Alex MacPhail said the burglars cut the lock to his unit and stole antique furniture, memorabilia, personal photographs, jewelry, a steamer trunk, Victorian chairs and family heirlooms.

The storage unit also contained an antique, 7-foot-tall Governor Winthrop desk valued at more than $1,000. Inside the desk were letters signed by U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and baseball great Ted Williams.

"Our family memories, pictures and life were in that desk," MacPhail said. "It was like a fire. We lost everything of value."

MacPhail decided to go public with the burglary in the hope that someone might recognize a stolen item and report it to police. MacPhail estimates that the stolen items are valued at more than $6,000.

The York County Sheriff's Office is actively investigating the burglary, which took place at the U-Store on Route 109.

Maj. William King Jr. said the U-Store does not have surveillance video, which will make the investigation more challenging.

King says he is confident that someone -- such as an antiques dealer or pawnshop owner -- will notify police if one of the burglars tries to sell a stolen item.

"There is not much more we can do until some of this stuff starts turning up and then we will catch them," King said.

King said he is uncertain if the Shapleigh burglary is connected to a recent wave of break-ins that have taken place at self-storage units in North Yarmouth and New Gloucester.

At Walnut Hill self-storage in North Yarmouth, burglars cut locks off 41 storage units and removed furniture, clothing, electronics and tools.

King said the burglars cut the lock off McPhail's unit as well as the lock off the unit next to his. They left the contents of the unit next to his untouched. That unit contained tools and construction equipment.

The burglary was discovered on July 21 by the self storage facility's owners, Jim and Sandy Webber. "We felt horrible for Alex," Sandy Webber said.

Webber that while U-Store does not have surveillance video, the facility is equipped with floodlights and is surrounded by residential homes; none of the homeowners reported seeing anything suspicious.

"I could have cried when Alex called us. He was heartbroken. He didn't want to tell his wife or kid what happened," Webber said.

MacPhail, who commutes from his home in Old Orchard Beach to his job as an events coordinator in Dover, N.H. has rented the unit for about five years. His family used to live in Shapleigh.

MacPhail said the desk has been in his family since the 1920s. It contained all of his family's personal items.

"I'm cognizant of the fact that there are other, more pressing things going on in the world. But for us this was devastating," MacPhail said.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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