Old News

A professional felon turned the obits page into a hit list—and KIRO won’t let us forget it.

Terry Lee Alexander sounds like the last person in the world you’d want working around old people. The 22-time felon spent 14 years of his life in a jail cell, mostly because his chosen profession was taking other people’s stuff.

Alexander was nicknamed the “obituary burglar” after police determined he’d used newspaper obituaries to locate his victims. Alexander targeted homes left unoccupied by tenants attending a funeral, thereby doubling down on his sin by robbing folks, mostly older, who’d just lost a loved one.

KIRO-7 smelled blood in the water when they found out that since his release from prison, Alexander had been hired at a Kent senior center. Alexander works as the weekend attendant, letting in and locking up behind the people who rent the space for birthday parties, wedding receptions, and other events. Reported KIRO of the hire, in the breathless tone that’s a hallmark of scary TV news programs everywhere: “It’s one that has victims, police, and taxpayers alike shaking their heads in disbelief.”

One of Alexander’s former victims and the prosecutor who helped put him away are understandably wary of the arrangement. But Alexander’s story is a little more complicated than a convicted felon being set loose upon the vulnerable people he once specialized in burglarizing.

“It’s so upsetting to us because [Terry] has proven himself to be an excellent employee,” says Alexander’s boss, Lea Bishop. “He’s on time, does what needs to be done, and then something like this slams him to the ground. It’s just so frustrating.”

KIRO says that Alexander told Bishop about his criminal past. That’s true. But they also say that it was because of his felony convictions that the county decided to let him work only nights and weekends. Bishop says that’s not correct. The job of building attendant always involves nights and weekends, she says.

“It’s a difficult job to fill,” she says. “It pays $9.50 an hour. These are very unglamorous hours because people want their weekends. We had an opening. A person we knew at Green River Community College [where Alexander was training to become an auto mechanic] had a student who [he] said was a good prospect but just needed a break. Terry never sought us out.”

As a result of KIRO’s report, Kent is now reviewing its background-check system. Bishop says she’s going to lobby hard to let Alexander keep his job.

“The worst worry you have is that he will become a re-offender because no one gives him a chance to show he can be an upstanding citizen,” says Bishop. “Now he has the stigma of the TV show where his face is all over the place. Finding someone else to trust him is going to be even more difficult.”