ST. GEORGE — The first time Joshua Cram, owner of the St. George pawn shop More than Just a Second Chance, walked into the Mesquite, Nevada, home of the mass murderer who killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas last year, he said it was an eerie experience.
“It did concern me and it did weigh heavy on my heart,” Cram said.
Despite the harsh criticisms of an essentially anonymous letter sent to St. George News and other media sources and community members, Cram said that as the owner of a pawn shop, he was asked by a realtor and Larry Bertsch, a financial consultant, to take possession of Stephen Paddock’s furniture and belongings from the Mesquite home.
Cram went into the home in July, packed up a lot of the furniture in a U-Haul truck and brought it across the state line back to his shop in St. George to sell.
Although his character has been called into question, Cram said he still hopes to sell the remaining items that haven’t already been purchased from his store.
A good price, but would you buy it if you knew?
On Oct. 1, 2017, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on concertgoers at the final day of the Route 91 Harvest Festival held at the Las Vegas Village, an open-air concert venue.
In what was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Paddock rained more than 1,100 bullets on the unsuspecting crowd from a room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
The attack lasted more than 10 minutes, killing 58 people and injuring 851 others – including many residents from Southern Utah – before Paddock reportedly took his own life.
While there has been speculation as to why Paddock carried out the shooting, his motives are still largely unknown, as there was no suicide note or manifesto found. For some, the lack of understanding Paddock’s thought processes makes him even more frightening.
And it’s a sentiment Cram is not immune to. Taking possession of the furniture that once belonged to a mass murderer is not something he said he was actively pursuing. He was asked to liquidate the items, and he said he felt like he could help by taking the stuff that no one else wanted.
“The alternative was to just throw the stuff away,” Cram said.
There were 15-20 furniture pieces or items that Cram took to his shop, including couches, pictures and electronic items, but not Paddock’s bed, personal items or any dishes, as implied by the letter. Most of the items from Paddock’s home have already been sold, Cram said.
“Most of the stuff was barely even used, and some of it was brand new,” he said. “It was like the house was staged, and the furniture was just there.”
Cram’s store has only made about $900 from the furniture, he said, which isn’t much for a struggling business.
The items were also purchased on consignment, meaning 50 percent of the money raised from selling the furniture will be given back to Paddock’s estate, the proceeds of which are being used to benefit the victims and people affected by the shooting.
“That’s why we wanted to take on this project – we felt like we could help out in some way,” Cram said. “Yes, we are profiting a little bit, but we’re just doing our job.”
No longer anonymous
Cram said he initially hoped no one would hear about him taking the furniture from Paddock’s home for a few reasons: he felt like he might be publicly scrutinized for it, he didn’t want the items he sold to be stigmatized and he didn’t want to attract “weirdos” keen on buying items they knew came from a mass murderer’s home. These are the same reasons Cram won’t reveal which items are from Paddock’s home if a customer asks him.
No one who bought any items from Paddock’s home knew they were buying stuff that once belonged to a mass murderer because Cram said he never tells his customers the origin of any merchandise at his store.
“We never tell anyone where anything comes from,” Cram said. “We do estate liquidations – sometime we know the people we’re buying from, sometimes we don’t.”
Cram’s wish to remain anonymous was short lived once his involvement was leaked in the form of unsigned letters with no return address and only the name “Gary” to identify the author.
The letters personally attack Cram and his business for liquidating Paddock’s furniture.
To take Stephen Paddock’s personal belongings, a mass murderer, and sell his items in Mr. Cram’s store for profit shows severer lack of character and moral conscience. I can bare wittiness (sic) that this is not something you want to be associated with your community either!
The letter says the only reason Cram took possession of Paddock’s items was to make a profit, which is something Cram said is not true.
The letter closes with stating the goal of warning the public about Cram selling Paddock’s furniture. Similar letters were also sent to Cram’s employers at his second full-time job and over 100 homes in the community.
Nothing to hide
So far, Cram’s employers and several people in the community who received the letters have approached him to ask him about it, but all of them were more concerned for Cram and his family than any of the products he was selling. He said he has gotten nothing but support from the people who asked him about the content of the letters.
“We were blindsided by this letter,” Cram said. “I don’t know who ‘Gary’ is, and I wish he would have talked with me.”
Cram said he knew if his involvement with Paddock’s estate ever leaked like this, it had the potential to ruin his reputation because of the animosity felt toward Paddock. Now, because of how damaging the letter’s contents are to Cram and his business, he said he is considering trying to track down the author and possibly taking legal action.
Cram said he has nothing to hide and is just doing his job in an effort to repurpose the furniture items to help the shooting victims. He’ll continue to operate More than Just a Second Chance and hope people in the community continue to support him and his business.
“I can only hope that people can see that we were trying to do some good and not make a quick buck,” he said, “because it hasn’t been a quick buck; it’s been a lot of work.”
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