Hearing postponed for alleged teeth thief

Pete Lara booking photo courtesy LASD

Pete Lara booking photo courtesy LASD

LANCASTER – A preliminary hearing has been postponed to next week for a former apprentice embalmer accused of stealing gold teeth from corpses at a funeral home and then pawning the items at local pawn shops.

Pete Jacob Lara, 39, appeared in an Antelope Valley courtroom today, however, the hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial was postponed until Tuesday, Nov. 19.

Lara’s defense attorney requested the continuance, saying there was “new discovery” in the case and she needed additional time to prepare. The defense attorney also requested an hour-long recorded interview sheriff’s investigators conducted with Lara.

Lara, a former employee of Halley-Olsen-Murphy Funeral Home in Lancaster, is facing more than two dozen felony counts for allegedly stealing gold crowns from bodies and other items, including a cremation urn box and medallions used to decorate urn boxes worth more than $1,000.

Deputies began investigating Lara when a review of local pawn slips revealed that Lara had pawned gold fillings at several locations over the course of several months, sheriff’s officials said. After obtaining an arrest warrant, deputies arrested Lara on October 28 and found suspected methamphetamine and several gold fillings in Lara’s pocket, officials said. Authorities also served a search warrant at Lara’s residence, where more fillings were discovered, officials said.

Lara’s alleged crimes took place between June 25, 2012 and October 28, 2013, according to prosecutors. If convicted as charged, Lara faces a maximum sentence of 19 years in state prison. He remains jailed on $300,000 bail.

Previous related story: Ex-employee charged with theft of human remains