Custodian hopes to find owner of stolen photos

Polly Thomas spends her days sifting through items that have been confiscated as evidence for the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office.

As the evidence custodian, Thomas’s job is to purge evidence once a criminal case has been dismissed or when prosecuting attorneys allow the items to be auctioned off or returned to their rightful owners. Right now, there are more than 8,000 items in the evidence room.

But when looking through evidence tubs a few months ago, Thomas came across items that she knew couldn’t be ignored.

After three burglary cases involving the same suspect were closed, Thomas began to look through more than 100 items that had been stolen from a storage shed.

“When you’re clearing out a storage locker, you’re not looking at what you’re taking,” Thomas said.

Among the items found were an old camera, a slide viewer, comic books, two autographed baseballs, and a trading card collection. But those finds weren’t what caught Thomas’ attention.

She found a number of photos, including a family portrait that looks to have been taken in the early 1900s. Another photo looks like it could have been taken in the 1980s and shows a man in a flight simulator. A number of the photos depict airplanes, which suggests the owner might have been a flight buff.

“I’ve done this for a little over a year now, and this is the first time I’ve had a situation like this with irreplaceable items,” Thomas said.

Thomas hopes she can reunite the photos with the family they belong to. She says she will keep the photos for 90 days in hopes that the owner will come forward. If the items are not claimed, they will be auctioned off, destroyed, or become the county’s property.

Thomas enjoys tracing family histories herself, so she is reluctant to discard the photos.

“When you’re talking about old family photographs, I’m a genealogist myself. I have a soft spot for this kind of thing,” she said.

Thomas is hopeful these photos will catch the attention of someone who knows where they belong.

“I just don’t have the heart to destroy it (the evidence). Some things are replaceable and some things aren’t. Hopefully these items will ring a bell with people before they go to auction,” she said. “If the owners aren’t interested in them, maybe their grand-kids would be.”

For more information, or to claim or inquire about items, call 360-249-3711.