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Gem society ‘heartbroken’ over destruction of stolen piece

One of the most prized specimens stolen during a smash-and-grab heist at the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Museum is no longer intact — rendering it worthless, a museum official said this week.

The nine-inch-long pink and green specimen was among five notable pieces stolen from the treasured tourmaline collection during an early morning break-in at the sleepy little museum Sept. 10.

Its remains were found in a cache of what authorities said was $500,000 worth of stolen jewelry located in the home of Edward Torrison, an Oceanside man suspected of thefts in Orange County.

Torrison, 30, pleaded guilty Oct. 6 to burglary, grand theft and other charges linked to heists in Laguna Beach, and was immediately sentenced to 32 months in prison.

He remains a suspect in the break-in at the Fallbrook museum, as well as a burglary at The Collector, a shop also in Fallbrook, on Sept. 26, said Detective Joel Couch of the sheriff’s Fallbrook station. Couch said Wednesday he is waiting on DNA results from blood left behind at both break-ins.

It turns out the search of Torrison’s home by Laguna Beach police also turned up two firearms stolen from two homes in Vista. Couch is investigating that as well.

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As the investigation continues, members of the society that runs the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Museum were “heartbroken” to learn that one of their most valuable pieces had been sawed into pieces, said Mary Fong/Walker, past vice president of the society.

The 9-inch-long piece mined in North County was valued precisely because of its size, since it is rare to find such pieces still intact, she said. The piece, she said, “was one of the largest ever discovered in that mine. There is no replacement.”

Thing is, there was no reason to cut it up; the specimen was far too cloudy for use as smaller gemstones.

“It is absolutely astonishingly stupid,” Fong/Walker said. “You are taking something worth something and turning it into gravel. It’s like taking a diamond ring and deciding to smash the diamond.”

There’s more. The destroyed piece had been donated to the museum by a doctor years ago, in memory of his late wife.

“On multiple levels, it’s tragic,” Fong/Walker said.

There is a bit of good news. Of the five big pieces taken, two were found intact, with minimal damage, and remain in police evidence. Two other big pieces remain missing.

The society members are staying vigilant about looking for the missing pieces, and have asked gem and mineral aficionados around the world to report it if they come across the stolen pieces up for sale.

“We want to make it to the point that if these show up, they are not going to get any money for them,” Fong/Walker said. “This a crime against the community. You don’t do this.”

Save for a special event last month, the museum has been closed since the heist. Getting the place back up to snuff, including repairs to broken doors and display cases, and security upgrades, could run more than $10,000.

Anyone with information about the burglaries or missing pieces can call Couch at the Fallbrook substation at (760) 451-3100.

teri.figueroa@sduniontribune.com

(760) 529-4945

Twitter: @TeriFigueroaUT




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