Verna Ortwein and one of our antique dolls.
Photo by Oscar Roloff.
by Oscar Roloff
"You three get into that restroom and stay there or I'll shoot you," the robber said as he pointed a gun at Verna Ortwein and her two customers.
Hurriedly the three frightened people did just that and stayed there for a long time until they thought it was safe to come out.
Since 1972 Verna had operated her Doll Museum in a building alongside her home near Woodinville. In the back of the museum, a door led to her husband Neil's photo shop. Quickly, Verna ran to the back door and yelled to Neil, "Help! I've been robbed! Call the police!"
In the back, Neil had taken out his hearing aide. Often he's done this, saying, "I really don't need it."
Neil had failed to notice that their two Doberman-Pinschers had been at the door, apparently knowing that something was amiss. Neil quickly called the police and a robbery report was filed. Verna had no insurance, always living on the goodness of people.
I wrote an article about the affair. I've known them for over 20 years. Talked with Neil, who is now deceased, about his fabulous photo collection.
Shortly after the hold-up, Verna received a large package with three of the dolls inside, plus a note with a fake return address. The note was from a lady who said her boyfriend had given three of the dolls to her as a gift. Realizing they were very expensive and having probably read my article, she thought it better to return them.
17 years later
The other day, the Snohomish Prosecuting Attorney called Verna and said they had received a report from Texas authorities that a man had been caught in a theft there and had admitted he'd robbed a lady in Washington state.
They'd checked the national file to see if it was true. Noting that it was a robbery and grand theft due to the expensive dolls, they sent the Texas robber to Snohomish.
The Snohomish County prosecutor said the man was in jail, and Verna would be called when the trial date was set. A few days later, he called her back and said that due to the long-ago incident, it was better to drop the charges. They set the man free.
Today Verna, now 84, is irked at what happened via the judicial system. Said she'd lost about $30,000 in the doll theft.
Long since has her Doll Museum been shuttered. The museum section now houses Darrell Anderson's Tic-Toc-Clock Repair and Sales. Now 84, Verna sits alone in her house adjacent to her former Doll Museum, disgusted.
In conclusion, the whole scenario would have been different had Neil had on his hearing aide. He would have heard the two Dobermans wanting to get into the doll room and would have opened the door. Somehow the dogs knew something was wrong.
I knew those two dogs, and it took a long time before they'd accepted me, and I'm not a crook.
As for the couple, they'd never before been bothered by thieves and they knew the reason why: the protective dogs.