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Detective helps recover precious photos stolen in vehicle theft

Lana Garfield looks through photo albums that her mother, Diane Grant, kept of her life. The albums, which were in a car parked in front of her home, were stolen last week and recovered a few hours later. Garfield is grateful to have them back. Her mother
Lana Garfield looks through photo albums that her mother, Diane Grant, kept of her life. The albums, which were in a car parked in front of her home, were stolen last week and recovered a few hours later. Garfield is grateful to have them back. Her mother passed away Tuesday.
Winston Armani, Deseret News

NORTH OGDEN — A North Ogden woman was devastated when her brother's car was stolen from outside of her home last week.

It wasn't the car she was concerned about, but what was inside it — photo albums of her 83-year-old mother who had moved into her home after she fell and broke her hip.

The albums have even more meaning since her mother, Diane Grant, died Tuesday at the age of 83. But thanks to the hard work of two Weber County sheriff's deputies, Lana Garfield has those priceless photos and mementos back.

“This is my mother's life. This is her legacy of love that she has left to her kids,” Garfield said. “We got her wedding photos in here and she kept everything. She kept letters from old boyfriends and letters that (former LDS Church) President (David O.) McKay wrote her.”

Two weeks ago, Grant fell and broke her hip and needed surgery. “They (doctors) said if you don’t have the surgery then you’re going to pass away, and she said, ‘Well that makes it easy for me.'”

She didn’t have the surgery. Last week, Garfield’s brother drove down from Oregon to be with the family. He had parked his Buick in front of Lana Garfield’s home. The photo albums were in the back.

Garfield said her husband’s truck and her brother’s car were stolen Tuesday, Jan. 27.

"We didn't care about anything else in the vehicle but these books,” Garfield said.

The truck still hasn’t been found, but police did find the car hours after it was stolen in a hotel parking lot. Unfortunately, the photo albums were gone.

"My mom is in my home dying and all of her photos and original documents are in this car and they're gone,” Garfield said.

Police arrested several people in connection with an auto-theft ring on Jan. 27. Elijah Ray Palmer, 20, was booked into the Weber County Jail for investigation of four counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, two counts of vehicle burglary, possession of methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia.

The sheriff’s office says Palmer was found in possession of the stolen Buick, and while speaking with investigators he allegedly confessed to several crimes including the theft of the Buick. When asked about the albums and photos, Palmer told investigators he had dumped them on the side of the road somewhere in Ogden.

"The bad thing is he didn't remember exactly where he had dumped those,” Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Lane Findlay said.

Findlay says detective Steven Haney, who was working on the case, was determined to find them. Haney convinced Palmer to drive aimlessly up and down streets in Ogden, stopping anywhere Palmer thought they could be.

Just when they were about to give up, Palmer told Haney to take a left onto Easy Street and that's where they spotted the two photo albums.

Police went to her home.

"I said, ‘Come on in,’ and he said, ‘Well we can't. We have so much we need to carry in,’ and I said, ‘You found them?’ And I threw my arms around him and I said, ‘Oh my gosh. I love you so much.’"

The photo albums did not suffer any damage. They looked exactly the way Garfield last saw them.

"He's an outstanding detective, very committed,” Findlay said.

Garfield said she couldn't be more grateful to once again have the memories her mother now leaves behind.

"They didn't give up until they found those books because they knew how much they meant to us, so I just appreciate it,” Garfield said. “I love those men so much. They went beyond what they needed to do."

The sheriff’s office says over the past month Palmer, along with Brandon Tyler Whitbeck, 29, and other associates are thought to be responsible for a series of property crimes that span across the entire county.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: ddolan@deseretnews.com