Yes, for those of you who thought we might have been joking with the last post, our car was actually stolen.
And yes, as many of you know, we recovered it on Saturday.
This is how it went down...at least as best as I can tell.
Sometime before 2 a.m. Friday Morning, a man named Craig M, wanted on felony theft charges in at least one other state, forcibly entered a parked vehicle on Lorene street, a few blocks from our apartment. Rifling through the interior of the car, Craig found and took a wallet and purse, and left the scene immediately.
Craig made his way to the Speedway Gas Station and used a credit card to buy snacks, maybe a pack of cigarettes, a can of bud light? His face was clearly recognizable on the surveillance cameras and the time stamp on the credit card record matches the time stamp on the video.
He then took a taxi to Wal-Mart.
At the Wal-Mart, the perp tried to use the stolen credit card to buy a laptop. The purchase failed. From here the timeline gets fuzzier, but somehow the perp made his way back to my neighborhood, where he likely began checking car doors, looking for an easy grab.
Around 2:30 a.m. Craig enters apartment complex parking lot and begins systematically checking car doors for unlocked vehicles. When he tries my driver's side door he not only finds it unlocked, but by the light of the parking lot lamps he notices a set of keys in the console tray beneath the emergency brake.
It is difficult to say what happened next. The perp drove our car away, but we don't know where he went next. At some point he picked up a friend who, from the evidence left in our car, appears to have recently been released from O'bleness Hospital in Athens, Ohio. That is likely the next stop on this journey.
When we recovered our vehicle in Columbus it was full of stuff that belonged to a woman named Colleen A. There was an O'bleness Hospital outpatient bag, a water jug, several items of clothing, a hair brush, a bottle of lotion, some body spray, two cigarette lighters, a bottle of prescription jugs parked PL, and a CVS bag containing a recently filled prescription of Oxycodone.
This means that Craig, likely picked up Colleen from O'Bleness Hospital and drove her to the CVS on East State Street to fill her prescription.
Craig and Colleen filled a prescription at CVS sometime on Friday before getting on State Highway 33 and heading North to Columbus in our stolen Ford Escort.
At some point on Friday Craig M. removed our bike rack from the back of the Escort and likely sold it or stored it somewhere to sell or use later. Also missing from the car was a fold up camping chair, and a few dollars worth of McDonald's coupons.
I like to think that Craig and Colleen stopped at the McDonald's on 33 just outside Columbus and ordered two double cheeseburgers and two Cokes.
Perhaps after lunch they decided to drive to Columbus to see if they could find a buyer for our Ford Escorts stock alloy rims. Perhaps in the McDonald's parking lot they took off one wheel and replaced it with the spare. Their plan: Use the one wheel as a show piece at pawn shops around Columbus, hoping someone would be interested.
If this was their motive, then they must not have wanted to bring the car with them to the pawn shops for fear of being caught, so they would have had to park the car somewhere and take another vehicle around to the pawn shops. Maybe they never made it out to try to sell the wheel. Perhaps all the effort of removing the wheel was a waste.
Either way, when the car was recovered, the left rear wheel had been removed and was in the back of the car. It had been replaced with the spare.
At some point on Friday Colleen and Craig were joined in the car by a Brenda M. One car seat was unbuckled and put in the back of the car with the removed wheel, and the other was unbuckled and pushed over.
Brenda M. was driving the car when it made a right turn without signaling and nearly hit a patrol car.
The officers in the patrol car pulled the ford escort over and when they ran the plate number, they discovered the car had been stolen.
When questioned about the car, Brenda pointed at Craig, who was at that time sitting in the back seat and said something like, "This car belongs to one of his friends."
Brenda was arrested for possession of stolen property. Craig was arrested because his description matched the man in the Speedway Gas Station video. Colleen was not arrested, but the car was impounded and Colleen had to find her own way home, sans prescription drugs, hair brush, etc.
A tow truck was called in at the scene of the arrest and our Ford Escort was towed to the Columbus Police Impound Lot where it sits among hundreds, if not thousands, of other impounded vehicles.
A Columbus Police officer sent a text message to the Athens Police dispatch notifying them that the car had been recovered.
at 12:10 a.m. the Athens City Police department called our house to inform us that our car has been recovered.
We were instructed to call the officer in charge of our case first thing in the morning for instructions.
Saturday Morning I called Officer Filar and he told me what he knew and gaveme the address for the impound lot.
at 9:00 a.m. I catch a ride with friends to the impound lot and spend two hours jumping through hoops, talking on the phone with insurance companies aand paying $55 to get my car out of impound.
The car was dirty, and as I've described, full of other people's junk. I had imagined the car would have been used for joy riding, or sold for parts, but from the bizarre collection of personal items in the car, it appears that Brenda, Colleen, and Craig had assumed possession of the vehicle and, in essence, moved-in. Their cell phone charged was still plugged into my dash power port and a crumpled can of Bud Light was under the seat.
I stopped at an Autozone in Canal-Winchester and changed over the spare tire with the wheel in the back of the car.
It was here during a conversation with a woman behind the counter that we figured out that the reason for removing the wheel was to sell it.
My last stop before driving the car back to Athens was a car wash down the street from the Autozone. I felt like I had to clean the car before I brought it back home.
For lack of a better word, I felt violated. The entire time the car was missing I felt very little emotional trauma about the incident, but seeing it parked at the impound, limping on a spare tire, covered in the dirty finger prints of criminals, and full of someone else's junk, I had a hard time feeling like it was our car.
I threw away garbage, vacuumed, and washed the outside of the car. And I used a sweatshirt that had been left in the car to wipe down the alloy wheels.
The car still smells of cigarette smoke a little, but we're glad to have it back, glad to dodge such a large, inconvenient, and frustrating bullet.