Laura Wood, in wheelchair, with family in Saco. Police have charged a funeral home worker with stealing her wedding ring after she died. Photo courtesy of Sally Wood and Emily Coyne

A  funeral home worker has been arrested and charged with stealing a diamond wedding ring from a 102-year-old woman after she died in a Saco nursing home.

Stuart Weston, 51, of Sanford was arrested Tuesday and charged with felony theft for allegedly stealing the wedding ring of Laura Wood, who died at Seal Rock Healthcare in Saco on Jan. 21. Weston, who worked at Autumn Green Funeral Home in Alfred, was sent by the funeral home to pick up Wood’s body. He was arrested after police obtained evidence, including video, that he sold Wood’s ring to Maine Gold & Silver in South Portland, said Saco Deputy Police Chief Corey Huntress.

Family members of Laura Wood are relieved that the wedding ring has been recovered, but are still stinging at the thought that someone entrusted to care for their loved one at such an emotional time could violate that trust so completely.

“Taking care of someone’s dead body should be something sacred,” said Emily Coyne of Cape Elizabeth, Wood’s granddaughter. “Knowing this happened has been an awful distraction to our ability to grieve her.”

Coyne said the family had the wedding ring – three rings fused together – appraised  years ago at about $4,000. But she said the value of the jewelry was not the issue. The ring is a family heirloom and symbol of the life built together by her grandmother and grandfather, who were married some 80 years ago.

“We’re happy at the resolution, so he can’t do this to anyone else,” said Wood’s daughter, Sally Wood, of Weston’s arrest. She said she hoped the incident would make nursing homes and funeral homes look carefully at the procedures they have for making sure a loved one’s possessions are safe.

Emily Coyne wears her grandmother’s wedding ring, which had been stolen, after it was recovered at Maine Gold & Silver in South Portland. Photo courtesy of Emily Coyne

Wood’s family learned that the wedding ring and two other rings were missing when they went to the funeral home a couple of days after Wood’s body was brought there, Coyne said. The missing rings were reported to Saco police as well, Huntress said.

Coyne posted about the rings being missing on social media, to see if someone had tried to pawn them, and she checked several pawnshops and places that buy jewelry. When she checked at Maine Gold & Silver one day – she works nearby as a nurse at InterMed in South Portland – the staff had already seen her posts. She knew that Weston was the funeral home employee who had picked up her grandmother’s body from the nursing home, and she gave the staff his name. The store staff checked their records and video surveillance and notified police, Coyne said.

“They were so helpful I need to buy them some flowers,” said Coyne of Maine Gold & Silver.

After the rings were located at Maine Gold & Silver, police obtained a warrant for Weston’s arrest, Huntress said. He was arrested by Maine State Police on Tuesday and is scheduled to appear in court in York County on June 21. The ring will remain with police as evidence, Huntress said.

Weston was listed as a funeral attendant at Autumn Green and had been “associated with the home” since 2005, according to a short biography on the funeral home’s website, which has been removed. It said that Weston is a 1988 graduate of Sanford High School who had worked at Chadbourne’s Florist in Springvale for 10 years before buying it, and running it for another 15 years.

The funeral home’s management emailed a statement about Weston’s arrest to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Saturday.

“Autumn Green Funeral Home was upset and incredibly disappointed to learn of the recent allegations. The employee involved has been terminated and Autumn Green will cooperate fully with authorities during any investigations. For more than 15 years, Autumn Green Funeral Home has worked daily to earn the trust of their neighbors and this community, while providing the best and most compassionate service possible, and will continue to do so,” the statement read.

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