Stop the presses!

Stop the presses!

Postby Daniel Hunt » 1:00 am 12/16/2007

The designer site had this image of the Lewiston Tribune's front page. On it is a standalone photo of a man painting a window. Below it is a story about an "unidentified" man caught on camera for stealing a wallet left on a cashier's counter. Now, look at the two men:


What do you see? If you're like me, you'd think the guys look alike -- really alike. A story about this whole thing, below, appeared in the Tribune the next day.

Front-page photos help capture thief

David Cole
Lewiston Tribune
December 14, 2007

The blue- and black-checkered jacket, and dark-colored, hooded sweatshirt were dead giveaways to Tribune readers, and police.

Michael Millhouse, of Millhouse Signs in Lewiston, said he liked the photograph of himself on the front page of Thursday’s Tribune, painting some Christmas greetings onto the windows of a downtown Lewiston business.

It was the second image on the page, about an inch below, the 43-year-old Millhouse, of Clarkston, didn’t find so flattering.

That one, taken from a video surveillance camera at the Clarkston Zip Trip on Bridge Street, showed him standing inside the convenience store.

The image ran alongside a story about the apparent theft of a woman’s wallet at the store by a man, whom police hadn’t identified and who was being sought for questioning. The story described how 19-year-old Jami Johnson of Lewiston had forgotten her wallet on the counter at the store, loaded with $600 cash, three credit cards, her Social Security card and driver’s license. She’d just cashed her paycheck, she said, and needed the money for Christmas.

Video screens, from multiple angles, showed Millhouse snatch the wallet and leave the store with it.

The two pictures, running one on top of the other, led to Millhouse’s arrest Thursday and the recovery of Johnson’s wallet.

Phone calls flooded the Tribune from readers, hoping to be the first to connect the dots and nab the Christmas Grinch.

“I didn’t do what the media has put out there,” Millhouse said. “I’m not just a fat guy that walks around Zip Trip eating beef sticks and drinking coffee.”

But he did admit taking the wallet.

Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols said Millhouse is scheduled to be back in court Monday for arraignment.

“Our editors (Wednesday) night noticed the similarities in the two photos,” said Paul Emerson, Tribune managing editor. “We are not crime-stoppers here. It is just a weird coincidence. If it did solve a crime, I’m glad it happened. I have seen nothing like this in my 26 years as Tribune managing editor.”

A Tribune employee, originally alerted police about 3 a.m. Thursday to the obvious similarities between the men in both pictures. The employee wanted police to see the front page before Millhouse did.

The employee pointed out Millhouse was clearly the man police were seeking, sporting his blue- and black-checkered jacket and dark-colored, hooded sweatshirt in both pictures.

Clarkston police officer Jeremy Maguire contacted Millhouse, and he was arrested.

Millhouse was charged with second-degree theft, and appeared in Asotin County Superior Court and eventually was released from jail after a $5,000 bond was posted.

Millhouse initially denied taking the wallet, authorities said. He later told police he took it because he thought it was his wife’s. The wallet allegedly was found at his business. The money was gone, but the credit cards, Social Security card and driver’s license were still there, police said.

“Video camera evidence has assisted us in solving a lot of crimes,” Clarkston Police Chief Joel Hastings said. “But we have never had a situation quite like this in my memory.”

Hastings said the pictures ending up next to each other in the newspaper was a fortunate coincidence.

Millhouse told the Tribune he picked up the wallet intending to return it to its owner sometime on Tuesday, but got bogged down with work and forgot about the wallet he’d left at his business. He was bogged down with work on Wednesday, too, when he was spotted by Tribune photographer Kyle Mills, who snapped pictures of Millhouse as he decorated windows.

He didn’t hand the wallet over to store employees, he said, because it had a better chance of being returned to the owner with all its contents if he handled the situation. His only mistake, he said, was not returning it sooner.

“I don’t return purses everyday for a living,” Millhouse said.

In a signed statement to police, Millhouse said taking the wallet was the “most stupid decision of my life, that I should be ashamed for the rest of my life,” according to the court document. “Not only was it wrong, but it was against my morals as a person of faith.”

Millhouse continued in the statement, saying he wanted to “right the wrong I created.”

“I always liked the Grinch. I guess I am one,” he said in the interview with the Tribune. “I am sorry for embarrassing the community and being the Grinch this year.”

“It was amazing,” Johnson said of getting her wallet back. Authorities told her that Millhouse, if found guilty, would have to pay restitution for the money.

“I feel the paper and everybody did a great job,” said Paul Johnson, 45, of Clarkston, Jami Johnson’s father. “I believe in karma. What he did was wrong and he needed to be caught.”
DANIEL HUNT | The Orange County Register
"The less you talk, the more you're listened to." --Abigail Van Buren
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Daniel Hunt
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Location: Southern California

Postby Jim Thomsen » 1:10 am 12/16/2007

I think owning a jacket like that is the real crime here.
Jim Thomsen

Postby Paul Ybarrondo » 8:59 pm 12/16/2007

Now that's what I call wild art.
Paul Ybarrondo
Posts: 66
Joined: 4:24 pm 04/22/2006
Location: Los Angeles

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