Funeral home teeth thief gets 7 years

Pete Lara booking photo courtesy LASD

Pete Lara booking photo courtesy LASD

LANCASTER – A former apprentice embalmer accused of taking gold crowns from human remains at a Lancaster funeral home pleaded no contest and was immediately sentenced Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Pete Jacob Lara, 39, pleaded to seven felony counts – one count each of possession of methamphetamine and removal or possession of dental gold from human remains, and five counts of commercial burglary.

Lara was immediately sentenced to seven years in state prison to be served in local custody.

He was also ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that provides programs and services to military veterans wounded in combat as they transition to civilian life.

Lara is a former employee of Halley-Olsen-Murphy Funeral Home in Lancaster.  While working as an apprentice embalmer, Lara took gold crowns from bodies and other items including a cremation urn box and medallions used to decorate urn boxes worth more than $1,000, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors said Lara went on to pawn the stolen goods at local pawn shops and jewelry exchanges.

Deputies began investigating Lara when a review of local pawn slips revealed that Lara had pawned gold fillings at several area locations over the course of several months, sheriff’s officials said. Deputies arrested Lara on October 28 at Halley-Olsen-Murphy Funeral Home and found 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 was originally charged with 26 felony counts. Lara pleaded no contest to seven felonies Tuesday, and the remaining counts were dropped as part of his plea agreement. The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

(Information via the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Lancaster Sheriff’s Station.)

Previous related stories:

Hearing postponed for alleged teeth thief

Ex-employee charged with theft of human remains

  7 comments for “Funeral home teeth thief gets 7 years

  1. Nancy P
    November 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    As disgusting as this is, I wonder why he gets more time than a child (alive) abuser gets.
    His victims are dead and their families obviously didn’t know he stole the teeth.
    Someone who abuses animals, children or someone who steals identities or commits fraud on social services should get more time than him.
    A wise man once said, “Let’s do away from Hotel California” (Lee)

    November 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    The fact that he was caught with methamphetamine in his pocket along with dead people’s dental gold might show that he’s a drug addict and being an addict can make an otherwise decent person do awful things. It’s unfortunate that you are such a hateful human being who sees no possibility of redemption for your fellow man. Your list of cruelty removes all humanity from incarcerated people. You’re throwing them away. What do you think these prisoners you would treat so horribly will do when they come out of prison as broken people: both physically and mentally. Do you think they’ll find a job and integrate back into society? I doubt it. They’ll end up in your house stealing your things. You can choose to rehabilitate people or you can create a permanent criminal class. You seem to be opting for the latter.

    • Trisha
      November 27, 2013 at 3:36 am

      Well said bpurcel. You have the kind of outlook that others need to stop and think about.
      Too bad there are others like Lee, and have that lynch mob mentality.
      A perfect example of a criminal who committed way more serious crimes is the aforementioned “Pillowcase Rapist.”
      His were also crimes of violence and he was a chronic offender without a doubt not redeemable- yet rape after rape, along with assaults and burglaries, he was released time after time, each time serving less than 7 years!
      Apparently this is Peter Lara’s first offense, otherwise you best believe his priors would be highlighted and probably included in the headline…
      I’m not condoning what Peter Lara did, but his crime doesn’t even compare to many of the horrible crimes of violence, like home break-ins where vicious thugs terrorize innocent victims, or other thugs that prey on the elderly or children.
      They don’t seem to be sentenced very harshly, nor do they get the stiff sentences that they well deserve.

  3. Lee
    November 21, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Give him 15 years and let’s do away from Hotel California.
    All prisoners should be given:

    1. One meal a day
    2. Change of clothes every 2 weeks
    3. No TV, no library, no workout gyms, no satellite, no internet
    4. No AC, heating
    5. Expand the works program, budget cuts for street cleaning? No problem, give them a broom.
    6. No free medical insurance, charge their family

    Make jail count the way it should so that scum like this and others really pay.

  4. Marie Callahan
    November 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Yucky! Terrible thing to steal from the deceased. However, for stealing $1,000 in gold and one meth charge we taxpayers will shell out approximately $350,000.00 for incarceration cost ($50,000.00 annually x 7! years). Wouldn’t it be better to ignore the yuck factor and make punishment fit the crime? At least restitution will go to the good cause of the Wounded Warrior Project.

  5. anotherdummy
    November 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    7 years? For steeling from dead people? I understand that his crime deserves punishment, but there are people who commit violent crimes against actual living people who get less time than that.

    • anotherdummy
      November 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm


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