Thief with conscience returns cremated remains in Washington state

SEATTLE Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:28pm EDT

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - A thief with a soft-hearted streak, who inadvertently nabbed some cremated remains along with thousands of rare gems in a truck burglary in Washington state, has anonymously mailed back the ashes to their owner, police said on Wednesday.

The truck owner had been golfing in a Tacoma suburb when his vehicle was broken into by a thief who stole a briefcase filled with 3,000 prized Oregon sunstone gemstones, more than 30 silver and gold sunstone rings and a bracelet with 34 multi-hued stones, said Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.

Also taken was a green suitcase containing the cremated remains of the truck owner's son, he said. Days later, the thief anonymously mailed back the ashes to an address on the truck owner's business card, which had also been taken.

"The case is unique because of the high dollar amount of the gems and because you've got a criminal, a thief, who has somewhat of a heart," Troyer said, without giving a value for the stolen valuables.

The types of Oregon gemstones stolen are popular for jewelry, especially in the Pacific Northwest, said Steve Flock, a Bureau of Land Management geologist in Lakeview, Oregon. They are found near the Oregon towns of Plush, Burns and at the Ponderosa Mine, he said.

It was unclear if the thief acted alone or had an accomplice, and Troyer said the thief likely "got lucky at random" in finding the gems.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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