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Caught on Camera: Thieves Steal Kids' Christmas

They used a doggie door to break in and ransack the home

By Adrian Arambulo and Samantha Tata
|  Tuesday, Dec 24, 2013  |  Updated 11:38 AM EDT
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Excitement for Christmas is replaced by fear for a SoCal family after their home was ransacked by thieves who stooped low. Using a doggie door to break in, they ripped off ornaments from the family's tree, stole presents and even took an urn holding the ashes of two grandparents. Adrian Arambulo reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 9 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2013.

Excitement for Christmas is replaced by fear for a SoCal family after their home was ransacked by thieves who stooped low. Using a doggie door to break in, they ripped off ornaments from the family's tree, stole presents and even took an urn holding the ashes of two grandparents. Adrian Arambulo reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 9 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2013.

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A group of burglars used a doggie door to break into a Southern California family’s home, steal children’s piggy banks and presents from under the Christmas tree and make off with an ornate urn holding the ashes of their grandparents.

The brazen theft happened the afternoon of Dec. 20 in the 900 block of North Madison Avenue, a quiet, tree-line street in Pasadena. Police in the city said they’ve seen thieves use doggie doors to break into homes before, but not recently.

Once inside, the thieves ransacked Griffin Gmelich’s home.

The thieves emptied stockings, ripped ornaments off the tree, and snatched jewelry and electronics. One was caught on camera hauling what appeared to be a flat-screen TV.

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“You could see the TV cords ripped out of the wall,” Gmelich said.

His young children’s piggy banks were stolen and their presents were plucked right out from under the Christmas tree. But most painful, Gmelich said, is that the thieves took the urn holding his parent’s ashes.

“They literally stole my mom and dad," he said.

The thieves left behind footprints and fingerprints. A neighbor’s security camera captured images of the thieves. For two hours, they carried stolen items out of the home and into a getaway car. Detectives are searching for four burglars, possibly teens.

The family said they wanted to share their story not for donations but to see justice served and warn others.

Gmelich said the doggie door the thieves used to break into his home belongs to his 100-pound Guffman, who, despite what his size may suggest, is more of a lover than a fighter.

“Once they got in, he probably befriended them because he's a friendly guy,” Gmelich said of his dog.

Days before Christmas, the family is dealing with unwanted changes. They’re now installing an alarm system and Guffman’s doggie door is being sealed.

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But most heartwrenching, Gmelich said, is how his family’s peace of mind was stolen and his children’s holiday spirit dampened.

“They don’t understand,” he said. “The spirit of Christmas? It’d odd to them now.”

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