Two of the five major tourmaline pieces stolen from the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society Museum have been recovered intact.
The pieces were among the stolen property recovered from the home of Oceanside resident Edward Torrison, who was arrested Sept. 26 by Laguna Beach police officers as a suspect in a series of smash and grab robberies in Orange County.
Torrison pleaded guilty Oct. 6 in Orange County to seven felonies – four counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of grand theft and one count of receiving stolen property – and on Oct. 11 was sentenced to 32 months in state prison.
The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society was the victim of a smash and grab heist Sept. 10, as was The Collector Fine Jewelry less than a week later.
Detective Joel Couch of the Fallbrook Sheriff’s substation said Torrison is a suspect in the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society robbery and is “a person of interest” in the break-in of The Collector. The Fallbrook cases are ongoing investigations and no charges have been filed.
In searching the garage of Torrison’s home, Laguna Beach police found a large tool chest filled with gems, crystals and stolen jewelry. The estimated $500,000 worth of stolen property was taken to the Laguna Beach Police Evidence Department, and that’s where Mary Fong-Walker, a member and advisor to the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society, went to view the stolen loot Oct. 23.
Fong-Walker, along with her husband Jim Walker, and the assistant curator for the museum, Gina Palculich, examined the evidence and found three of the five major mineral specimens that were stolen from the museum. Unfortunately, one of them, a nine-inch tourmaline from the Cryo-Genie mine, had been destroyed.
Fong-Walker reported that a tourmaline specimen from the Cryo-Genie Mine (9 inches tall) and a tourmaline and quartz specimen from the Cryo-Genie Mine (3.15 inches tall) appeared to be intact with minimal damage.
They did not find the other two stolen tourmaline specimens – tourmaline on quartz from the Tourmaline Queen Mine, and tourmaline, quartz and lepidolite from the Pala Chief Mine – among the piles of evidence.
Fong-Walker said that of the “rough and cut” specimens on quartz bases that were also stolen, 12 of the 13 quartz bases were recovered. She added that the group went through the specimens and gemstones and identified some that could possibly be part of the museum collection but it was clear that not all of them were there.
Fong-Walker said the group was “overjoyed” to find the intact pieces but “absolutely crushed” to find the one piece that had been destroyed.
“For whatever stupid reason, he sawed it up,” said Fong-Walker. “There were definite saw marks. You’re taking something that was basically irreplaceable and turning it into pieces. There was nothing to be gained from doing it. There was no gem value in it whatsoever, and why the hell he did it, I have no idea. This is the one that Dr. Peter Bancroft had given to the club in memory of his wife Virginia, so this really hurts.”
Fong-Walker said the Gem & Mineral Society remains hopeful the other two pieces will be recovered and that the organization will continue to get the word out about them.
Anyone with information regarding the Fallbrook robberies is asked to call Detective Couch at (760) 451-3109.