In the post-war years the Tri-Cities was had its share of crime and disillusionment along with the rest of the nation, as evidenced by a string of film-noir pot-boilers at the local theaters. This true story could have been fodder for a script.
Pharmacist arrested for narcotics theft
Bill Bates, Herald staff reporter
Published on July 1, 1948
A swift and coordinated probe into Monday's narcotics robbery of the Pasco Crescent Drug store ended sensationally with the arrest yesterday afternoon of Jack Engeln, the store's pharmacist, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Nappi disclosed today.
Engeln, who told police he was forced at knife-point to open the drug store's safe for an unidentified couple, has confessed to the hoax and has admitted stealing the narcotics and about $1500 in checks and currency, Nappi revealed.
The arrest took place at Richland Patrol headquarters, where Engeln had been escorted by a Richland officer. Nappi and Sheriff Harvey Huston were the arresting officers. The course of the investigation which was launched Monday morning led the prosecution to a new Richland drug store where Engeln was being considered for a position as druggist.
About $1100 of the stolen currency has been recovered, Nappi said. The money was found in Engeln's suit coat at the Richland drug store.
His fabricated story was first punctured by police with the aid of Crescent Manager Spencer Jilek. Once on the track, the search for the two hypothetical persons was discarded and the investigation turned to the druggist, himself, Nappi explained.
"The entire investigation conducted by the chief of police, the sheriff's department and the prosecution, clicked from the start and brought this matter to the present state in a minimum amount of time," the deputy prosecutor continued. "It's going to continue until the whole thing's wound up."
Nappi said the druggist had left the Crescent Monday to discuss his new job at the Richland store with the owners. Yesterday afternoon, he was approached at the Richland drug store and asked to come to Patrol headquarters for an interview.
"He agreed to come, but asked first if he might go back into the place and change from his white druggist's coat to his street coat," Nappi said. "He was allowed to do this. A short while later, he returned still wearing the same coat."
After being taken to the station, according to a prearranged plan drawn up with the Richland patrol, Engeln was arrested.
After an interview, the arrested man was taken back to the Richland drug store, where the $1100, rolled into a wad, was found in his coat pocket. Nappi said it appeared he had transferred it from his business coat to the other before being taken to the station.
"He seemed greatly relieved that it was all over," Nappi observed. "He admitted taking the money and narcotics and fabricating his original story."
"The stolen money appears to have been merely a by-product of the robbery, which was made largely for the narcotics. As a matter of fact, Engeln told me he didn't know what to do with the currency and had actually considered burning it," Nappi said.
About $400 in checks was burned, he added.
The owners of the store, unaware of Engeln's connection with the robbery, were taken by surprise when informed of the arrest, Nappi continued. Before leaving, he said Engeln turned to one of the employees and said:
He is presently being held in the Franklin County jail. No charge has been filed against him, but it is expected that action will be taken soon, it was reported.
Nappi did not say whether the stolen narcotics or any part of them were recovered. However, he stated that the investigation is still continuing.
Engeln has been employed by the Crescent drug for approximately a year. He is married and has four children.