Nearly 500 items stolen from La Crosse Public Library

2 people charged with theft, criminal damage to property

La Crosse police said two people are responsible for stealing nearly 500 total DVDs, CDs and books from the La Crosse Public Library on Main Street that may be valued around $10,000.

On Thursday morning, the director of the La Crosse Public Library System told La Crosse police John W. Cook, 38, had checked out 488 items between November 2014 and late January 2015 and did not return any of them.

La Crosse police said Cook and Shelly R. Numsen, 23, both of La Crosse, admitted using Cook’s library card to check out the items and planned on keeping them for their personal collection. Numsen also admitted that they “blacked out,” or covered up bar codes on the library tags on items using a black marker or ink, rending them unreadable.

The library’s director and police had contacted Cook about the items he checked out and Cook said he was aware that he needed to return them. He said he would bring them back the following day, but nothing was returned. The library director said more than half of the items were now to the point of billing Cook for the replacement value of the items and she wished to press charges against him.

La Crosse police went to Cook’s last known address at an apartment on the 600 block of 7th Street in La Crosse and talked to Numsen. She told police Cook had moved out and took all of the items with him. However, Cook was in the La Crosse County Jail on a separate charge and told La Crosse police the library items were in a cabinet at his ex-girlfriend, Numsen’s apartment on 7th Street.

La Crosse police went back to the apartment and found the stolen items. It took more than an hour for two library employees to remove all 488 items from the apartment and place them into the library’s vehicle. The library’s director said due to the majority of the bar codes being destroyed, the items would all need to be replaced or repaired. The library director estimated the total replacement value for all of the items would be more than $10,000 and would take an extremely high number of employee work hours to check the condition and the bar code and possibly restock the items.

La Crosse police charged Cook with theft, criminal damage to property and bail jumping. He was on bond at the time of the incident. His charges were given to the booking staff because he was already in the La Crosse County Jail. La Crosse police issued Numsen a signature bond for theft and criminal damage to property, which she signed and was released to herself.