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How to Catch a Thief? Ask Plucky 101-Year-Old

When money – about $70 in all – began disappearing from her purse, a spry centenarian turned sleuth. “I just want to kick her in the rear end,” Pauline Puttbrese said.

Pauline Puttbrese, 101, helped police solve the mystery of money that disappeared form her purse over a couple of weeks at a western Michigan retirement center. (Screenshot: WOOD-TV)
Pauline Puttbrese, 101, helped police solve the mystery of money that disappeared form her purse over a couple of weeks at a western Michigan retirement center. (Screenshot: WOOD-TV)

A spry 101-year-old woman’s detective work helped police nab a thief who had been pilfering money from her purse while she slept at a retirement community in Hastings, MI.

Pauline Puttbrese told WOOD-TV and WXMI-TV that she wasn’t going to be a victim. The thefts amounted to about $70 over time – a significant sum to someone like Puttbrese, who came of age during the Great Depression and was one of the women collectively known as “Rosie the Riveter” who kept Michigan assembly lines running World War II.

With the blessing of the retirement home administrators, the centenarian decided to set a trap.

Puttbrese counted out $38 and put her purse in the closet.

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In a couple of days, only $18 remained.

Police were called. They took a cursory report, but told Puttbrese and the care center manager they didn’t think there was much that could be done about it.

More insult followed. A couple of days later, her purse was gone.

The plucky centenarian, who got tattoos for her 99th and 100th birthdays, turned detective, determining that the thefts were taking place during the overnight shift. Only two people work that shift, she told police, who took the workers in for questioning.

“They finally just questioned them enough that she confessed,” Puttbrese told WXMI.

The worker has been fired, and the matter has been turned over to the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office.

Puttbrese wants to exact her own punishment.

“I just want to kick her in the rear end,” she told WXMI.


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