The bag and box thieves stole from Noah Strickland’s house on South Belmont Avenue aren’t fancy: a blue velvet bag with gold rope ties inside of which was nestled a simple plastic box.
It’s the contents that were invaluable as it held the ashes of Strickland’s wife.
“I never thought about it getting stolen. Never even gave it a thought,” Strickland said while tears brimmed in his eyes.
The theft was reported Monday. Strickland’s living in the childhood home of his late wife, Christine. She spent the last nine months of her life in the hospital and told him “when she died, she wanted to come home,” Strickland said.
Just living in the home is painful. “Every time I would go to pick something up, it was hers,” Strickland said.
But seeing that blue velvet bag on the box by the front door brought him comfort.
“She’s with me,” he said.
As old houses sometimes do, the foundation has settled on the old two-story home in the 1200 block of South Belmont Avenue. So he normally keeps the front door secure with a padlock. But on Monday he left the door unlocked to run to a friend’s home. When he came home, he found items moved in the living room and a VCR missing.
That’s when he turned to that treasured spot on the desk and realized his wife’s ashes were gone.
“I didn’t know what to do. Well, I didn’t sleep that night, I didn’t sleep at all,” Strickland said. “I just sat here on the front porch trying to figure out why.”
Springfield police officers took a report but couldn’t find any forensic evidence. A neighbor reportedly saw a blue pickup truck with a red stripe on the front grill out front before the theft.
Strickland said he hopes the person responsible realizes what’s inside the box and returns it to him or to the police. He doesn’t care about criminal charges, he just wants his wife’s ashes back.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “If they steal a person’s car or something like that, yeah, they can replace the car. But a person?”
“All I care about is having her back,” he added.