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County dive unit recovers safe

St. John Vianney Catholic Church got its safe back last week. It was full of wet checks — and one soggy five-dollar bill.

The rest of its contents, estimated at $2,600 of checks and cash, were a total loss.

“There isn’t any hope for those checks — they’re just a wet wad,” said Constance Walker, St. John Vianney’s pastoral assistant for administration.

At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, two divers in full scuba gear from the King County Sheriff’s Marine/Dive unit jumped off the end of the Tramp Harbor dock.

It’s a notorious spot for recreational scuba diving, but these two divers had a mission: to recover the black iron safe that had been dumped off the end of the dock sometime after the safe’s theft July 19 and before its discovery July 26.

Armed with a bright orange net, the two men descended more than 20 feet into the depths of the Puget Sound. In a few minutes, three men on the dock hoisted the safe out of the water.

After the officials got the safe — one estimated it to be 150 pounds — onto the dock, they found a bank bag full of checks — addressed to St. John Vianney.

“Mystery solved,” said Greg McKinney, a member of the dive unit and a hoister of the safe.

Last weekend, a church member with welding skills brought the safe home and used a welding torch to open it. What he found was disappointing — the only cash left behind was one five-dollar bill.

The sopping checks are unusable, and church members who may have had checks in the safe were informed that St. John Vianney won’t be cashing them.

A 16-year-old Islander has been arrested for stealing the safe, and there are additional teenaged suspects in the ongoing criminal investigation. Heartbreaking to many parishioners, some of the suspects are connected to the church.

Father Richard Roach of the church announced Sunday, Aug. 18, that he is considering prosecuting the perpetrators on behalf of St. John Vianney, but emphasized he has not made a final decision because his “fear is that not all of the guilty will be equitably handled.”

“We must understand how prosecution relates to our obligation to forgive,” he added. “There are no exceptions to our obligation to forgive.”

The church has already purchased another safe, a used one that Walker said was “certainly an upgrade” from the one that was stolen. It’s more than twice as heavy as the old one, and “it’s really bolted in there,” she said.

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