'Very valuable' antiques lost when suspects ransacked Laurel Mountain homes, relative says
The family of an avid antiques collector whose Laurel Mountain Borough properties were ransacked this week plans to press charges against the five suspects.
Hannah Potter, granddaughter of Phil Rose, 92, said Friday that she and her family are devastated by the damage caused during break-ins Tuesday evening in Rose's three Walnut Road homes.
Ligonier Borough Police, who responded about 5:30 p.m. to a neighbor's report of banging noises coming from the vacant houses, found three juveniles leaving one house and two youths on a nearby road. Police said the girl and four boys, ages 11 to 14, had broken into the house and taken weapons and other items. Authorities said they trespassed at two other homes Rose owns on the dead-end road.
Rose stored his antiques in the three houses, said Potter, 28, of Los Angeles.
“These kids need to be punished for sure by the police,” she said.
Police Chief John Berger said he is meeting with the family and Rose next week to discuss filing charges.
“It was all very valuable, and these kids just came in and destroyed it completely,” Potter said of her grandfather's collection. “I'm amazed that they were even capable of doing that at (age) 11.”
Rose has collected antiques for at least 50 years, Potter said.
“It was his life's passion,” she said.
Tiffany lamps, 18th-century clocks, marble statues and 19th- and 20th-century photography were among the items Rose collected, Potter said.
The juveniles “just went crazy like a bull in a china shop,” she said.
“All of the antiques have been destroyed,” she said. “From what I understand, there is a Tiffany lamp sticking out of a window.”
Potter declined to discuss Rose's reaction to the incident. She said her family had planned to auction the items to help support her grandparents.
Police found a collection of 60 guns, knives and other weapons in one of the homes. Potter said all the weapons are legally registered to her grandfather.
The collection includes a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, a TEC-9 machine gun, an AK-47, a Thompson “Tommy gun,” assault rifles and handguns.
“He had them all legally and registered,” she said. “They're all part of his collection.”
Rose, a World War II veteran, took pride in his collection, Potter said, and had no malice toward anyone.
“There was nothing illegal about having those guns at all,” she said, noting that they all were unloaded.
Police confiscated several handguns and large animal teeth with ornate etchings from the juveniles.
Berger said the youths had taken some of the handguns to a fort in the woods to shoot them, having loaded the weapons with ammunition from the home.
Berger said officers suspected the guns belonged to a collector because of the weapons' makes and models. Looking at the contents of the other two houses, it became apparent that the homeowner was an antiques collector, he said.
He said the juveniles are not in custody because, at the time of the incident, authorities didn't have a known victim.
The items collected during the investigation are being kept in the police station until the family can retrieve them, Berger said. He said police are checking the registrations of the guns.
Potter said her family is “happy nothing worse happened.”
Rose is hospitalized because he is ill, Potter said. He had been dividing his time between homes in Ligonier and Johnstown.
Potter said she wasn't sure when her grandfather last occupied the Walnut Road home.
One of the houses had been a summer home for the family since the 1930s, Potter said. She was not sure when Rose acquired the other two houses but said he lived in one and used the other for storage.
Potter said her family checks on the properties.
Police reported that the houses were in disarray, but “who's to say that it's in disarray when literally the whole house was ransacked and destroyed? All I know is that I'm sure it was a hundred times worse because of those kids,” Potter said. “I don't even know how I'm going to clean it up.”
Layers of broken glass on the floors make it impossible to walk on them, Potter said.
She said there had never been any security issues at the property, which she said is in a “small community with wonderful people.”
Security measures have been taken to protect the property, Potter said.
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or email@example.com.