VANCOUVER, Wash. – A U-Haul containing family heirlooms that was stolen out of a hotel parking lot near Portland International Airport Monday morning turned up empty in Vancouver later in the day.
Two sisters lost their favorite aunt to cancer and their mother had packed the aunt's heirlooms into a U-Haul. The sisters had stopped at a hotel on Northeast Airport Way for the night but early in the morning thieves stole the U-Haul along with everything inside it.
A KATU News viewer, Debora Morton, had seen the story on an early evening news broadcast. A little later she spotted the truck on her nightly walk through an industrial area in the 5600 block of Northeast 127th Avenue just down the street from her house. She snapped a picture of the truck's license plate to compare it to KATU's earlier report.
"When I got back, I looked it up - looked three times because I just couldn't believe it, and it was it," she said.
She called police and then the KATU newsroom.
When police arrived and opened up the truck, they found only a ball of yarn inside.
The theft was captured on hotel surveillance video where the two sisters, Julie Barkett and Sarah Williams, from Stockton, Calif. had parked the 17-foot U-Haul truck loaded with their aunt's keepsakes.
Just after 6 a.m., a king cab burgundy pickup, with a trailer hitch mounted in the bed, pulled into the hotel parking lot next to the U-Haul. By 6:30 the pickup and the U-Haul had sped out of the parking lot. The two sisters were stunned when they woke up just after 7 a.m. and saw the U-Haul and all of their aunt's belongings were gone.
"We thought people might try to clip (the lock that we purchased with bolt cutters) and lift it up and take some things through it," said Williams. "We never thought they would take the whole truck."
The women checked on the truck through the night from their hotel window. They parked it right next to a huge green container under parking lot lights, but the thieves took it in broad daylight. Hotel employees, who were coming to work, then watched it speed out of the parking lot onto Airport Way, hitting curbs and bouncing over speed bumps.
Portland police are investigating.
The sisters say there isn't really anything of monetary value in the U-Haul – mostly quilts their aunt made, some furniture and family pictures. But there were nearly a century of memories in the truck. The sisters' aunt lived in Vancouver.
There are a couple of distinguishing items, including two Tiffany lamps with hour-glass shaped shades and brass women as holders of the light bulbs.
Even after the truck was found, the sisters were still devastated.
"If it was, you know, electronics or something like that from an electronic store, you could understand someone stealing that," said Barkett. "But for someone to steal family items that have no meaning to anybody but family, it's very upsetting."
KATU News reporter Erica Nochlin contributed to this report.