A North Bellmore widow recovered her late husband’s ashes, and police arrested the woman they said is responsible for stealing them — a bizarre case that involved the clandestine return of the funeral urn at a local diner.
Nassau County police announced First Squad detectives arrested Mary Arrieta, 54, of South Elm Street, Hicksville, late Thursday night, charging her with second-degree and third-degree burglary in connection with the Oct. 29 break-in and theft. Arrieta is scheduled for arraignment Friday. It was not clear if she is represented by counsel.
The widow in the case, Bernice “BJ” Immordino, 82, told Newsday Friday she was grateful to have gotten the ashes of her late husband, James “Jim” Immordino, back, calling the entire episode “the most-shocking feeling in my whole life.”
Police said Arrieta broke in to Immordino’s apartment on Pea Pond Road, stealing jewelry, a pocketbook, credit cards, Immordino’s Social Security card, cash — and the gold-colored box being used as the urn.
Immordino told Newsday in an interview on Nov. 6, what would’ve been her 64th wedding anniversary, that her husband died of a brain tumor in April 2010 at age 75 and that she’d used the box for his urn because he’d bought it as a gift for her at Fortunoff’s.
“It was a gold case, but it wasn’t gold,” she said then, adding: “It was closed with blue painter’s tape. And, because of the color, I guess someone figured it must be something valuable.”
Speaking Friday, Immordino said the urn and ashes were returned to her two months ago — after she’d gotten an anonymous phone call telling her to go to a diner on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. Immordino said she went with her son Jimmy and that someone came, left the ashes and urn in her son’s truck, and left.
“I don’t know the person who did this,” Immordino said. “My father was a police officer. I grew up with law enforcement. I’ve had a good life, lived a good life, and all of a sudden to be picked out like this and have this happen. This was heartbreaking.”
As for having the ashes and urn returned, Immordino said it was like a twist out of some spy novel.
“I got a call from a perfect stranger who said they had my husband’s ashes and to meet them at this diner. I tried to be a little like Sherlock Holmes about it, but it was all so strange. I went there with my son and then someone came and just left the ashes and the urn in my son’s truck — and then they were gone. I didn’t even get the chance to tell the detective I was working with what was going on.”
Police said Friday they’re still investigating any potential ties between Arrieta and Immordino and her family.
Immordino said she’s thankful just to have the entire episode behind her. An active real estate agent, she turns 83 on June 28.
“And we were married all these years,” Immordino said last year of her marriage to her late husband, who’d she married Nov. 6, 1955. “Not only married, but I actually liked him!”
On Friday, Immordino said: “It’s been a little unnerving. But, I got my husband back and I’m safe and that’s the most important thing.”