Seaford couple can't seem to shake series of bad luck

By Tony E. Windsor

It has been a rough few months for Walter and Faye Marvel. The retired Seaford couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on June 10. They owned a beautiful mobile home along Airport Road, and the six-year-old car they owned had only 29,000 miles on it; that is less than 5,000 miles per year. Their life sounds good so far.

Unfortunately, at the end of May misfortune befell them when a car crash caused both their home and car to go up in flames. If this was not enough, a few weeks ago a criminal stole Faye Marvel's pocketbook during a trip to the grocery store, getting $1,800 in cash. Walt Marvel says he is hoping their luck starts to change. He feels this could be helped along if police are able to catch the man who stole his wife's pocketbook.

Marvel said he and his wife were at the Food Lion store in Laurel on Wednesday, July 25, at about 5:30 p.m. They were in line at the meat counter when someone stole his wife's pocketbook. Walter Marvel says he was aware of a man who was standing behind him in the line, but was startled to learn that this was the man who stole his wife's pocketbook.

"This man spoke to me while we standing in line. He was behind me and he said something and motioned to the cheese behind the glass case. I looked down, but never looked back at him," Marvel said. "A lady in the store said this man grabbed my wife's pocketbook and ran out the door."

According to other witnesses outside of the store, the man ran from the store with Faye Marvel's pocketbook in hand. He was seen jumping inside a vehicle that picked him up in the area behind the Dollar General store. "My wife's pocketbook was found in a cart outside the store," Walter Marvel said. "All of her cards and personal belongings were still intact. Even a $2 bill that my wife has carried around for many years was still in the pocketbook. But, it was lying outside where it was normally kept, unfolded. I wonder if he may have done that as some kind of joke. But, the $1,800 in cash was gone."

Marvel admits that it was not the best idea to carry so much cash around in his wife's pocketbook, but the couple had just left the bank and was not planning to be gone from home very long. While Marvel said he did not pay much attention to the man standing behind him, he is glad other people did. He feels that if people know what this man looks like it may help police catch him.

According to Chief Jamie Wilson of the Laurel Police Department, the man is described as a white male, about 5'6" to 5'8" tall with tattoos. Wilson said the theft of Faye Marvel's pocketbook is not what is traditionally considered a "purse snatching," which is common in shopping centers and stores, especially during the holiday seasons.

"In this case, she did not have possession of her pocketbook," he said. "The pocketbook was sitting in the shopping cart. Many women will put their pocketbook in the fold-out area of the shopping cart that is usually designated for seating a child. Rather than a purse snatching where the thief snatches the pocketbook from the arm of its owner, in this scenario the thief grabs the pocketbook from the shopping cart and runs." Wilson said it is important that shoppers keep a close eye on their pocketbooks and other personal items when shopping in a store.

Walter Marvel said the man who is a suspect in his wife's theft is described as having a teardrop tattoo under his eye, a tattoo on his left leg and a long "bat" that trails down one of his arms.

"I think this is a description that does not apply to a whole lot of people," he said. "I believe there are people out there who know who this man is." Chief Wilson said the investigation into the theft is on-going and he is not comfortable releasing too much information about the case because it is active.

Back on May 31, the Marvels faced another troubling incident when both thought they were in for nothing more than an evening of television. Walter said he was sitting in the living room chair in his pajama bottoms at about 8 p.m., watching television. His wife was in the kitchen. "My wife came into the living room from the kitchen and sat down in her recliner when all a sudden we heard a noise that sounded like a bomb went off," he said. "We had no idea what had happened."

What happened, according to Delaware State Police, is a 2002 Chevrolet Blazer, operated by Nicholas Raneri, was westbound on Airport Road and drove off the south side of the roadway and crashed into the Marvel's 23-year-old mobile home. A neighbor who saw the accident began yelling for the couple to get out of their home because the truck was on fire and had ignited the home.

"We were dressed in our night clothes and didn't even have shoes on," Walter Marvel said. "I had left my wallet, which contained $260 on the kitchen counter, but when I went to try and get it, there was gas escaping from the stove and flames were coming out, so I knew I had to get my wife out of the house. Marvel said in addition to his wallet, his wife also left her wedding ring on the kitchen counter. Unfortunately, the need to get out of the house quickly left them helpless to retrieve their belongings.

The Marvels were able to escape their home, which was now fully engulfed. Raneri was able to get out his vehicle and suffered only minor injuries. He was transported to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and treated and later released. Police said he was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, inattentive driving and failure to have proof of insurance.

The Marvels' home of 20 years and their 2006 Kia were totally destroyed in the fire. A few days later Marvel said his son-in-law went into the rubble of what was left of the mobile home to look for Walter Marvel's wallet and his wife's wedding ring. "He found my wife's wedding ring," Marvel said. "But, my wallet was nowhere to be found. The firemen found a few bills that were badly burned, but otherwise everything else was gone."

Walter Marvel said his insurance companies replaced the car and got them a new mobile home, but they miss their old home, which held a lot of memories. He did maintain a sense of humor when talking about the house fire.

"I had my teeth soaking in the bathroom at the time of the crash," he said. "I knew there was no way they could have survived the fire. But, sure enough when my son-in-law went into the bathroom he found that part of the ceiling had fallen on top of the teeth and that kept them from getting burned up. I told my sister-in-law that I was afraid my teeth may have melted and gotten twisted. She told me I would just have to smile crooked."

The 73-year-old Walter Marvel said he and his wife are hoping that the bad luck that seems to have followed them the past few months can finally be behind them.

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