Theft victim just wants personal photos back
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 21, 2009 1:46 PM
Lee Stowe, owner of Trinity Auto Body, uses another computer for his business records since a $2,500 laptop was stolen from the office on Friday. But it's the personal family photos and videos that are really irreplaceable, he says.
Lee Stowe, owner of Trinity Auto Body, runs a small but honest business.
He tries to do right by his customers, and trusts the same will come his way.
Because of the small staff, he normally secures the office when he's working in the shop, to be on the safe side.
On Friday, though, someone quietly slipped onto the premises and made away with the $2,500 laptop that contained all the business' records.
"It was sitting in that chair," he said Monday afternoon, pointing to an area a few feet from the desk in his office on Berkeley Blvd. Next to it was a brand new printer in a box, which wasn't touched, he pointed out.
"We were working hard as we could on a car, me and the other guy," he recalls. "That day I happened to leave (the door) unlocked."
He estimates the incident occurred between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. When he returned to the office to go to lunch, only the computer bag was found.
Stowe reported the theft to Goldsboro police, and chances are his insurance will cover the loss. But that's not what's plaguing him.
It's the personal things the computer also contained.
"We have got (18-month-old daughter) Rachel's first steps, her first words, everything of her firsts on that computer, picking her up from the hospital," he said. "Our daughter Megan's wedding, she just got married, and (9-year-old daughter) Deanna's stuff on there."
Those, he said, are irreplaceable.
The business records and bookkeeping things were on the laptop so he could take it home with him every day, Stowe said.
"We're not printing a lot of photos any more. Mine have been on that computer and I take that computer with me in case of a fire," he said.
The 17-inch silver Dell Inspiron was not new, he pointed out. It had a little wear on it.
"I was even talking to (wife) Robbie about that -- we were planning to take all the stuff off the Dell because it was older, and put it on the home computer," he said. "But the laptop is convenient."
Whoever took the computer didn't get a power source, however.
"The power cord is still here, still unplugged," Stowe said. "And the bag had another power source, so they can't run it but so long before the battery will run down."
Police speculated that such thefts are motivated by one of two things, he said -- a student who will use the item themselves or someone desperate for money.
"I started calling pawn shops Friday but that's all (police) can do, rely on the honesty of pawn shops to turn it in," Stowe said.
The business owner recalls nothing suspicious leading up to the incident, and said it could have been someone who came in earlier for an estimate and saw there was a laptop computer in the office.
"Whoever was doing it was watching for me not to be available, quietly walked in and took it," he said.
He's keeping a closer eye on things now, checking into motion sensors and other precautionary measures. But that doesn't take away the loss of his family's priceless photos and videos.
At his church on Sunday, The Lord's Table, pastor Bill Wilson prayed for the return of the property.
"I'm glad pastor Wilson prayed for it -- it's the personal stuff that matters," he said. "None of the photos are going to mean anything to anybody else but Robbie and me. I don't care about the computer, if they're so desperate for it. I just want my information off it. I can't get any of that stuff back."
He was also touched by a gesture from another church member.
"Afterward, a lady got up and handed me $20, and said, 'This is for your trouble,'" he said.
That's the kind of thing Stowe himself tries to do.
"I don't treat people bad here," he said. "I try my best to be kind and do right by them. I guess it's just a desperate situation."
All he can do is hope whoever took the computer might have a conscience, or a change of heart.
"Understand that there's a lot of personal information that would be of no use to anybody else because of the wedding photos and videos of the kids," he said. "Maybe a sympathetic bone and it would resonate. I would hope so. ...
"If prayer goes out, the guys don't have a chance, no matter what. I'm just hoping the person would turn out to be someone honest or has someone honest around him who recognizes that he has a new computer and it raises a red flag."
Stowe asked that anyone with information on the stolen item contact police or call him at 922-1700.