Thieves experiencing a change of heart, making things right

Thieves experiencing a change of heart, making things right


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SALT LAKE CITY — Working in a newsroom you see it all — the good, the bad and the downright baffling. It’s heartwarming to see stories of hope and triumph, but it can be even more inspiring to watch when those who have been written off as “bad guys” experience a change of heart and try to make things right — and to see such humble forgiveness by those they have wronged.

The latest case, reported Tuesday by ABC News, happened in Chicago when a thief returned four gold wedding rings he stole 15 years ago. Not only that, they were returned with a letter of apology, signed, “A dumb kid who wants to right a wrong.”

Margot Riphagen remembers clearly the night the rings, originally belonging to her parents and grandparents, were stolen. Now 31 and living in Portland, Ore., Riphagen said she was 16 years old when she had a party at her house that quickly got out of hand.

"I invited a few friends over and then all of a sudden there were all these people there I didn't know. We immediately noticed stuff was missing,” she told ABC News. “My parents actually turned me in to the police. They always understood this wasn't my fault, but we had never recovered those rings, and I still have no idea who it was."

The Riphagen family was astonished to have the rings returned. Though the mystery may not be completely solved, they say all is forgiven.

"We don't care who it was. I was stupid when I was 16, and I'm sure they were too," Ripenhagen said. "We never thought we would get any of the stuff back. It's completely amazing and wonderful, and we're all thrilled about it. It's a super-positive thing and a great way to start the New Year.”

Should the thief be charged?
There is currently a debate on the social media site Reddit as to whether or not the thief who returned the Xbox and camera and paid for the damages should be charged for the crime. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

ABC News also reported about another remorseful thief who tried to make things right after being caught with a stolen bike.Paul Gilmour, 41, discovered his bike had been taken after leaving class at Portland Community College’s Cascade campus in Oregon last October. He contacted campus security, and when he made a full police report, officers told him they had recovered his Trek Hybrid bike.

But Gilmour didn’t just get the bike back. When the thief was caught, he reportedly asked for a paper and pen and proceeded to write an apology note.

“The letter stated that he had been laid off for a couple years, was dealing with addiction, and was really unhappy with his life and the things he’s been doing, such as this,” Gilmour told ABC News. “He was glad he was caught red-handed with my bike and said that he needs help.”

The thief then went the extra mile: He took $10 out of his pocket and attached it with the note, telling the bike’s owner to buy a better lock.

“It said, ‘P.S. Get a U-lock.’ So that’s what I did," Gilmour said. "I went right out and got a U-Lock.”

A family in Ontario, Canada, also had their property returned to them with a note and extra cash, but this time it was before they even realized their items had been taken.

The Huffington Post reported that last July, the family — who wishes to remain anonymous — awoke to find an Xbox, a digital camera, a note and $50 in a bag on their front porch. Though their house had recently been broken into, they hadn’t realized those items had been taken. The thief, however, had not forgotten.

"I can't put it into words how sorry I am,” the note read, calling the burglary “the worst mistake of my life.”

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The thief explained the money was to pay for the damage done to the screen door in the burglary, and he or she promised to complete 15 hours of community service to “partially atone” for the burglary.

In the letter, the thief offered some explanation as to why the crime was committed, saying he or she had been having “a very hard time financially.”

“This is the first and last time I will ever commit a crime. ... Please find it in your hearts to forgive the stranger who harmed you."

Ontario police are still looking for the thief, but officers have been touched by the change of heart.

“Just when you lose your faith in humanity,” Sgt. Doug Pflug told CTV News. "Instead of ditching the property in the garbage can, or what have you, they returned it."

Police in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., were also surprised when a thief turned himself in last July after an early morning crime spree.

According to Mt. Juliet police, 20-year-old Austin Sparks burglarized about six cars in a nearby town just after midnight July 31. According to a press release, Sparks took mostly spare change, keys and phones. The sixth vehicle he entered, a work truck, had the key in the ignition, so he made off with the vehicle.

After a drive and a fast food meal, Sparks “began to think about his criminal acts,” the release states. “The conscious decision of doing right or wrong consumed him, and he decided he would do right. His change of heart convinced him to drive the stolen vehicle to Mt. Juliet Police headquarters,” where he turned himself in.

“He walked in and told me that he had just stolen a car and it’s parked out front,” said police clerk Kinnie Long. “It was shocking. He even stated that he felt bad for what he had done.”

Though police in Mt. Juliet were surprised at the turn of events, they say it’s heartwarming to see it.

“It is very uncommon to have someone willingly confess to crimes,” said Mt. Juliet Sgt. Tyler Chandler. “It’s inspiring to see Austin have a change of heart. Hopefully he is now on the right track in life.”

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Lindsay Maxfield

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