Aiken cop helps capture Southeast 'cat burglar' suspect

Silver theft burglar is notorious for stealing millions

Morris News Service
Florida booking photo of Blane David Nordhal, 51,
Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 7:26 AM
Last updated 10:42 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts



An Aiken detective’s curiosity has helped with the arrest of a cat burglar suspect believed involved in silver thefts across the Southeast.

On Monday, authorities arrested Blane David Nordhal, 51, whom they say is responsible for stealing silver worth millions from homes across the South.

Nordahl is a career criminal often called the “Silver Bandit” because of his penchant for stealing just sterling silver. He also had been dubbed “Burglar of the Stars,” because past victims included Bruce Springsteen and Ivana Trump.

After a previous conviction in New York, Nordahl’s probation was transferred to Florida when he relocated to Jacksonville, which investigators said became his new base of operations.

From there, he traveled the South, but not so far that he couldn’t make it back home before being missed by probation officials.

Authorities believe Nordahl is responsible for more than 70 burglaries this year in Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. The stolen silver was worth more than $4 million.

When a detective in Aiken was searching the Internet for crimes in which only sterling silver was stolen, he came across an article about Nordahl that had been published in The New Yorker magazine quoting Cornell Abruzzini, a retired detective from the Greenwich Police Department in Connecticut.

The Aiken detective sent Abruzzini crime scene photos and reports, which were “like carbon copies of my reports from the 1990s,” Abruzzini said.

The former Greenwich detective then reached others who previously investigated Nordahl, including Lonnie Mason, a retired detective for the office of the Monmouth County prosecutor in New Jersey, where Nordahl was first arrested for burglary in 1983.

Nordahl began as an amateur, breaking windows and stealing whatever he could, Mason said, but over the years he refined his methods to the point they became so distinctive they became so-called signature crimes.

According to Mason, the burglar began specializing in sterling silver thefts because flatware and other dining items are kept downstairs, away from sleeping residents in upper rooms.

Mason, who acted as consultant for the task force in the current investigation, is considered the leading authority on Nordahl’s methods and behavior because of his many interactions with the suspect over the past two decades.

“Nordahl is OCD the way he goes about his business,” Mason said. “He does things the same way every time. He removes window panes and paneling and neatly stacks them in the yard outside. When you see one of Blane’s crime scenes, you know that no one else but him could have been responsible.”

The diminutive, athletic suspect was able to crawl through small spaces and bypass alarm systems, he said.

In Athens, Ga., police said they believe Nordahl struck three homes in July, netting about $30,000.

A task force formed to track down the burglar and was headed by a detective from Atlanta, where the upscale Buckhead neighborhod had been particularly hard hit.

An Athens-Clarke police detective was in Jacksonville on Saturday when authorities raided his home, but he wasn’t there. It is believed he might have been tipped off when his girlfriend, Elizabeth Irene Music, got picked up soon before near the home they share.

Authorities were able to obtain the cooperation of an unidentified witness who arranged to meet with Nordahl in Hilliard, Fla., about 30 miles from Jacksonville. Police were waiting and captured Nordahl after a brief foot pursuit.

Though it could not immediately be learned whether anyone of note was victimized this time by the burglar, Nordahl is suspected of breaking into the historic Cooleenee Plantation in Davies County, N.C., where someone swiped sterling silver items valued about $145,000 and spoons made by Revolutionary War patriot Paul Revere and considered priceless.

A consummate pro who was careful to not leave behind incriminating evidence, the burglar’s “signature” led to Nordahl’s being identified as the prime suspect, authorities said.

The burglar worked patiently and methodically. He disabled phone lines and alarms, carefully removed door panels and replaced them when leaving homes, and took out windows by removing the putty.

Abruzzini helped put Nordahl behind bars more than a decade ago after he broke into three homes in the New York City bedroom community of Greenwich. That included Ivana Trump’s mansion on the Long Island Sound, from which 120 pairs of sterling silver salt and pepper shakers were stolen.

At one home in Greenwich, Abruzzini said, the burglar spent two hours removing window moldings and panes to get inside.

Abruzzini, now an officer in Norwalk, Conn., assisted in the current investigation.

After Nordahl was charged in warrants obtained by Connecticut police in 1996, he was nabbed by investigators who followed a trail of burglaries that ran through Chicago and to the suspect near where he grew up in Wisconsin.

In September 1997, Nordahl signed off on a deal with federal prosecutors in which he admitted to 144 burglaries, allowing police in various jurisdictions to clear open cases. In exchange, Nordahl pleaded guilty only to the interstate transport of stolen property.

In accordance with the plea bargain, Nordahl was sentenced in 2000 to five years in prison.

Almost immediately after being paroled the following year, Nordahl went on another burglary spree in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, for which he was sentenced to an additional two years in prison.

More arrests followed after his release in November 2003. He avoided an extradition hearing and became a fugitive as mansion break-ins spread along the East Coast. Nordahl was arrested again in 2004 in Philadelphia. He was sentenced in December 2004 to eight years in prison. When released in November 2010, Nordahl had his probation transferred to Jacksonville, where he and Music ostensibly ran a pool service company.

Mason believes that the latest arrest will finally ended Nordahl’s career.

“By the time he’s finished being shipped from state to state and prosecuted in the various jurisdictions, he’s looking at 100 years or more,” Mason said. “This time it looks like we’ve got him for good.”

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jimmymac
45368
Points
jimmymac 08/27/13 - 07:43 am
5
0
CAREER CRIMINAL
Unpublished

This guy is the prime example of how judges and prosecutors allow a criminal to repeatedly commit crimes and virtually get a slap on the wrist. Hundreds of thefts and probation violations and he's out of jail? You can use crooks like this as the poster child for what's wrong with our criminal justice system.

PUPPYMOMMA
1367
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 08/27/13 - 09:07 am
3
0
Like the old saying goes-

Like the old saying goes- Curiosity killed the cat.

Newsreader
11
Points
Newsreader 08/27/13 - 09:36 am
5
1
Who was the Aiken Detective?

Who was the Aiken Detective? This story does not mention the name of the detective and if he was from Aiken, SC or not. It would be nice to know if there was a real local connection.
Regardless, great Police work with good cooperation among many agencies and juridictions. Hopefully this time the suspect will be given an proper sentence, and required to stay in prison for the time sentenced.
Also, the return of the silver spoons from Revere should be a priority of the police, prosecutors, judges, and attorneys.

KSL
139714
Points
KSL 08/27/13 - 10:05 am
4
2
The theft of silver was a

The theft of silver was a huge problem after Jimmy Carter's admin tanked the economy. Fortunately most of the idiot thieves go after electronics these days.

Too bad there is no death penalty for this career thief. I don't care when he gets out, he won't be reformed. Too bad taxpayers and his victims have to pick up the tab for his existence.

Sweet son
11072
Points
Sweet son 08/27/13 - 10:03 am
3
0
Wondering?

Did Nordhal commit the Aiken County burglary and who was the detective? I'm a little ADHD (LOL!) and sometimes miss stuff!0

PUPPYMOMMA
1367
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 08/27/13 - 12:42 pm
0
4
Yes, he is a career thief but

Yes, he is a career thief but I personally think the death penalty is a bit harsh.

jimmymac
45368
Points
jimmymac 08/27/13 - 02:37 pm
4
1
HARSH
Unpublished

A career criminal who steels the possessions of hundreds of people and you think death is harsh? What do you think would have happened if they woke up? Do you think he would have just walked away without doing something to them? Have you ever had your house broken into? Your happiness and peace is disrupted forever. No one has a right to do that without paying a penalty just as harsh.

KSL
139714
Points
KSL 08/27/13 - 07:34 pm
3
2
Being stolen from is a

Being stolen from is a horrible invasion of privavy. I have experienced it. It gave me a hint of what rape must be like.

KSL
139714
Points
KSL 08/27/13 - 07:40 pm
3
1
puppy

That is exactly why we have so many criminals running rampant. And years ago it took years for them to become really dangerous. No longer. There are feral animals out there at 15, 16, and 17. Just review the recent news.

Show me stats on successful rehabs.

PUPPYMOMMA
1367
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 08/28/13 - 01:34 am
2
2
Wow! He's a thief, not a

Wow! He's a thief, not a murderer. I didn't say people deserved to have their homes broken into.

KSL
139714
Points
KSL 08/28/13 - 10:50 am
0
1
He is incorrigible. And not

He is incorrigible. And not worth feeding and housing by taxpayers.

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