Suspected bowling-alley burglars roll a gutter ball

TACOMA, Wash. -- Two burglars had a lot of balls on them -- literally they had half-a-dozen stolen bowling balls on them -- when they loudly tried to break into a pilfered safe in the middle of a church parking lot, according to charges filed Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court.

According to the charging documents, Pierce County Sheriff's Office deputies were called to a church parking lot outside Spanaway around 2:30 a.m. June 14 for reports of two men hitting a safe against the ground.

One of the men, Jeffery Smith, told deputies the safe belonged to him but he had forgotten the combination. He said he took it to the church parking lot to open it without waking up his family.

According to the charging documents, deputies noticed six bowling balls with the price tags still on them in the back of the men's car. Smith told deputies he likes to bowl and the balls belonged to him.

Later, Paradise Bowl in Tacoma reported being burglarized sometime between midnight and 8:30 a.m. According to the charging documents, someone had taken $1,000 worth of bowling balls and a safe containing $4,000.

There were no signs of forced entry into the locked room where the safe had been kept, and the owner of the bowling alley suspected Smith, who she had fired a few days earlier.

Deputies contacted Smith, who changed his earlier story, saying he and the other man found the safe along the road, according to the charging documents. He said they put it back where they found it after speaking with deputies.

Upon being told the bowling alley had surveillance video, Smith reportedly change his story again, admitting to the burglary.

According to the charging documents, Smith said he and the other man ditched the safe and bowling balls along the side of the road after being contacted by deputies in the parking lot.

The stolen items were unable to be found, and Smith has been charged with burglary and theft.