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Theft ruins BYU student’s first night in Utah

She loses housing money, other items as van is ransacked

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Jessica Turberville worked three jobs to save up to attend BYU.

Jessica Turberville worked three jobs to save up to attend BYU.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — Jessica Turberville is unnerved most by the thought complete strangers could be reading the most intimate details of her life.

An old, blue journal full of memories and photographs covering years of her life is something the 18-year-old Pennsylvania native can never replace.

Considering recent events, there's no doubt that she'll have to try.

"They took everything that I had," Turberville said last week.

Turberville, a freshman at Brigham Young University, looked forward to her move to Utah. But after being robbed on her first night in Utah, she wonders if the journey was worth the cost.

In preparation from her move from Pennsylvania to Utah, Turberville filled her aunt's van full of first-year freshman necessities: clothes, school supplies — and money.

In Turberville's case, the extra cash amounted to $2,000 in fresh bills, saved to cover housing costs for one semester.

"She was so proud that she had that money that she was going to be able to hand right over to BYU," said Turberville's mother, Rebecca Eves. With six kids and a stretched pocketbook, Eves wished she could have lent more financial support to her daughter but watched proudly as the teen worked three jobs to make up the difference.

Turberville didn't have to pinch pennies for an education. Her father works for the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and could have signed her up for free tuition and housing. But Turberville said the deal wasn't worth missing "the BYU experience."

"I just wanted to be around people that were the same as I was," she said. "I knew it was a social area but in a clean, wholesome way. I didn't want to deal with drinking or whatever."

Her dream lost its luster when her aunt's van, parked in a Salt Lake apartment complex parking lot, was ransacked Aug. 25. The apartment served as the family's temporary pit stop as Turberville prepared to move into the student dormitories.

Some things were left untouched. Other items, such as her mother's clothing for the LDS Temple, were taken. It still hurts they took every penny of her hard-earned housing money.

And then there's the journal. Knowing the thief could be reading about her personal trials and joys simply angers her.

"We come from a small area where people leave their cars running when they go into the convenience store," Eves said, explaining why the van wasn't unloaded for the night.

"It was probably dumb on my part," Turberville added, when asked why she left all her housing money — $2,000 stuffed in an envelope in her backpack — outside overnight.

"I didn't even think, 'Oh, I should bring in my purse.' I was so excited about being in Utah, that I didn't even think about it."

Now, Turberville says, it's all she can do not to think about it. While schoolwork soothes the sting of loss, she says the littlest things upset her still.

"I saw cough drops the other day and I started crying," Turberville said. "Somebody had given me some cough drops right before I left."

Eves shed a tear, too, when she spotted a man playing a piccolo at the BYU Wilkinson Center a few days later.

"They stole her piccolo," Eves said. "There is no nicer person that this terrible thing could have happened to."

Turberville, however, says the kindest people have been strangers. Minutes after moving into her dorm room — and sharing her misfortune — new neighbors began donating items.

One woman even gave up her video camera to replace one taken in the theft.

"I am so amazed that people are giving me things," Turberville said. "I don't expect people to give me money. It's not their problem."

With the money she's received and help from home, Turberville has paid for one month's rent. Though she worries about what her future holds, Lamon Oviatt, one of BYU's student housing chiefs, says she has no need to worry.

"We'll always work with students if we can," Oviatt said. The cost for the year of housing and dining in the cafeteria would be $5,151.

That is not the kind of money Turberville has, but she says she is looking for a job to start saving again. But without any form of identification and as an underqualified freshman, she is having a hard time.

With time, hard work and a lot of faith, Turberville knows she can earn her housing money back. The blue diary, however, she will always miss.

"All I really want back is my journal."

E-MAIL: lsanderson@desnews.com