Kathleen Sallade had a master key for the assisted living facility she worked at in Gig Harbor, and police believe she used it to sneak into rooms and steal $300,000 worth of jewelry.
Now that Sallade, 63, has been convicted of first-degree trafficking of stolen items, the state has charged her with unprofessional conduct and is deciding whether to strip her of her nursing assistant license.
Sallade no longer works at Harbor Place at Cottesmore, but residents there haven’t forgotten what she did.
Her trial zeroed in on one victim, an 88-year-old woman who had her beloved gold engagement ring lifted from her jewelry box while she was in the hospital recovering from multiple strokes.
Erna Rose no longer could wear the ring, which her late husband bought in Germany and had inscribed with their wedding date: 2.19.59. She had lost weight and didn’t want to risk losing the ring so she wore it only in her apartment.
“Losing that, when I have lost so much already, was very hard for me,” Rose wrote in a victim impact statement.
A Pierce County sheriff’s detective later found the ring at a Tacoma pawn shop but somebody had scratched out the inscription. It now is valued at less than $750, court records indicate.
Nicole Long, the general manager at Harbor Place, retrieved the ring from detectives and had a jeweler re-inscribe Rose’s wedding date and polish up the ring.
“We decided the right thing to do was to get it fixed for her so it would be a good memory continuing on,” Long said, adding that Rose was overjoyed. “It was a good feeling to give it back to her.”
A judge ordered Sallade to pay Long back the $374.33 it cost to repair the ring. Sallade objected, arguing there was no proof she herself stole or damaged the ring.
Detectives began investigating Sallade in November 2012 after Rose reported her ring missing. They checked a database that shows how many items people sell to pawn shops and were suspicious of how often Sallade did just that.
Last year, she pawned 65 items and received more than $13,000, according to charging documents. In 2011, she pawned 74 items for more than $10,000. She received more than $13,000 in 2010 after pawning 154 items.
Detectives noted that many of the items she sold to pawn shops were wedding rings.
When detectives interviewed Sallade at work, she told them the wedding rings belonged to her and her mother, who each had a “couple.” She also told detectives she was offended at the implication that she had stolen them.
Nevertheless, Sallade was convicted of first-degree trafficking of stolen items and sentenced to nine months in jail. Three of those months can be served on home electronic monitoring, the judge said.
Rose could not be reached for comment. In a letter to the court, however, she lamented that Sallade “was in a position of trust in caring for those that are the weakest and most vulnerable in our society.”Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653