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Theatre, Friends, other storage units searched

Investigators searched seven public-storage units last Thursday, gathered some evidence, chief says

Storage units rented by the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, the Friends of the Children's Theatre and five individual staff members have been searched and some evidence seized, the Weekly has learned.

Police Chief Lynne Johnson late Monday confirmed reports of the two searches of the theater and Friends units in the American Self Storage yard on East Bayshore Frontage road.

Then she added that five other units, rented by individual theater staff members, were also searched. The searches occurred last Thursday, Jan. 31, she said.

"Some evidence was seized," she said.

She said the searches were in addition to searches of three of the four homes of staff members placed on administrative leave Jan. 24. The searches were conducted on the same day the staff members, including theatre Director Pat Briggs and the late Assistant Director Michael Litfin, were notified that they were on administrative leave.

Police reportedly searched Litfin's home while he was there, on leave for treatment of recently diagnosed cancer. He died unexpectedly at Stanford Hospital last Friday, Feb. 1, of an undetermined cause.

But detectives opted not to interview Litfin due to his health problems last week that sent him to the hospital twice, Johnson said.

A source familiar with the search of the Friends' storage unit said it is unknown whether police confiscated anything because the officer sealed the unit by changing the access code.

The Friends only learned of the search when a member went to enter the unit and found she could not get in, the source said.

The Friends kept costumes, old records and party supplies left over from a happier time a year ago: the theater's 75th anniversary celebration. The Friends have maintained a storage unit there for several years, the person said. The Friends paid $2,524 for the unit in 2005 and $1,190 in storage in 2003.

A 10- by 10-foot storage unit currently rents for $200 a month, according to an American Self Storage spokesperson.

Chief Johnson declined to speculate on whether additional searches are planned or other warrants exist.

Police 'sorting through' theater evidence

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