Couple suspected in 'rash' of home invasions involving elderly who had furniture delivered

WillowbrookTheftCrime, Law and Justice

A man and his girlfriend have been charged in a suburban home invasions that was part of a rash of crimes targeting elderly homeowners who recently had furniture delivered to their homes, authorities said.

Mark Stanko, 26, and Tracy Denell, 28, have been charged with home invasion, armed robbery and residential burglary in a home invasion in DuPage County near Willowbrook on Nov. 2, authorities said.

Stanko, who authorities said delivered furniture, and Denell were arrested Thursday night at their home in the 11100 block of Avon Street in Alsip when police executed a search warrant.

Police were not specific about how many incidents Stanko and Denell are suspected in, but among them are a home invasion Oct. 26 and a burglary Thanksgiving Day, both in Palos Heights, police said.

In the October attack, a man broke in through the front door of a home in the 12300 block of Pine Place in Palos Heights, according to Palos Heights police. The man ran into the homeowner, an 80-year-old woman, and sprayed her with pepper spray, then stole jewelry and fled, police said.

In the Willowbrook attack, a masked man broke into the home near Hampshire Lane West and 91st about 3:05 a.m., sprayed a chemical in the face of the woman who owns the house, and stole valuables, according to Sheriff’s police.

The pair are also suspected in a burglary in the 12400 block of 71st Avenue in Palos Heights on Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day, police said. Someone broke into the home and emptied a bag of dog food onto the kitchen floor to distract the family dog, then stole cash, jewelry and heirlooms that had belonged to a family member who had recently died, police said.

Palos Heights police learned that there were other departments investigating similar crimes. In the last several weeks, police determined there had been “a rash of home invasions in the south suburbs,” targeting elderly people who had recently had furniture delivered, according a news release from the DuPage County Sheriff’s police.

Investigators were able to trace the home invasions to Stanko, and when they served the search warrant Thursday evening, “proceeds from multiple crimes, including the unincorporated Willowbrook incident were found in the home,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Stanko was ordered held on $750,000 bail and Denell on $500,000 bail in a hearing this afternoon in DuPage County Circuit Court, said Paul Darrah, spokesman for the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office. Stanko and Denell are expected to appear in DuPage County court again on Jan. 19, Darrah said.

lford@tribune.com

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