Convicted burglar with craving for silver arrested in stakeout Charged in case here, man was tracked from N.J. to section of Balto. County

November 19, 1998|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

The red 1991 Cadillac DeVille that was headed south on Interstate 95 looked ordinary, but it wasn't. At the wheel was a 36-year-old convicted burglar whose meticulous methods and preference for sterling silver were known to law enforcement officials from New York to Florida.

In a surveillance network that stretched from the New Jersey shore into Baltimore, dozens of police officers tracked Blane David Nordahl's late-night road trip. It ended with his arrest early Tuesday in an exclusive neighborhood off Falls Road.

The man authorities say has robbed the homes of socialite Ivana Trump, sportscaster Curt Gowdy and 19th-century writer Mark Twain was holding no stolen goods, police said, when nearly two dozen officers converged on him at 5 a.m. as he walked toward his Cadillac, parked on Devon Hill Court near the city line. But police said he had a set of burglary tools -- and that was enough.

"We kept people in the bushes and shrubs all night long," said an exultant Lt. Jerry Foracappo of the Baltimore County police. "He is an extraordinarily proficient burglar. He targets sterling, not plate."

Nordahl was charged yesterday with a single misdemeanor count of fourth-degree burglary, and bail was denied. While he was held in the Baltimore County Detention Center, police from New York to Maryland scrambled to assemble warrants and affidavits in dozens of cases in which Nordahl is a suspect.

The cases are linked by a method of theft so precise that it's almost like a fingerprint, authorities say: Window frames or door sections are expertly removed late at night with household tools, and the glass and wood are stacked neatly beside the house. Silver candelabra, flatware and serving pieces are removed from drawers and cupboards, then taken out through the open window or door. Any silver-plated items are left outside. The burglary tools are left in a nearby hedge or woods.

"This guy is a professional burglar. Nothing but the best for Blane David Nordahl," said Robert Honecker, second assistant prosecutor of Monmouth County, N.J., who prosecuted several cases involving Nordahl.

Police say Nordahl even uses an assay kit to test for sterling silver.

Nordahl, who has several convictions for burglary dating from the mid-1980s, has told police in Greenwich, Conn., that he participated in hundreds of residential burglaries in expensive neighborhoods.

"We are crediting him with 142 burglaries in 36 jurisdictions in nine states," said Capt. James Walters of the Greenwich Police Department.

Nordahl was first arrested in 1984 in New York City, Walters said, and was convicted of larceny. After serving a brief jail term on that conviction, he was released -- then arrested and charged with burglary in 1985.

That pattern has continued ever since, Walters said -- arrests, convictions, release and more burglaries throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.

"Each time he went to jail and was convicted, served time and when he got out, he went back to doing the same thing," Honecker said.

Nordahl is a suspect in at least four Baltimore County burglaries this year and a dozen in Baltimore City, authorities said yesterday. He is also wanted by several police agencies on Philadelphia's Main Line, where hundreds of thousands of dollars in sterling silver has been stolen since last summer.

Nordahl was convicted of burglarizing the Hartford, Conn. "He was after Tiffany lamps in there," Walters said.

At the time of his arrest in Baltimore County, Nordahl was awaiting sentencing in New York on a federal charge of transporting stolen goods -- a charge that incorporated several dozen burglary cases in multiple jurisdictions from 1994 to 1996, authorities said.

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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