Stolen ashes reunited with family visiting San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A North Carolina mother and daughter visiting San Francisco are relieved after San Francisco police reunited them with their loved one's stolen ashes. ABC7 News covered the story Thursday after someone broke into the family's rental car the day before at Fisherman's Wharf.

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"My plea helped, it worked, he's here with us and we've been reunited," said Julia Wilkinson as she clutched her father's ashes.

Joe Wilkinson died from a heart attack nearly eight months ago.

On Wednesday, Julia and her mom Mary arrived in San Francisco, one of Joe's favorite cities, so they could spread his ashes. They were parked in a Fisherman's Wharf garage and as they waited for their room to be ready, someone broke into their rental car trunk. The suspect took a wallet, suitcase and Joe's remains.

"It's a person, it's like robbing a grave," Wilkinson said.

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While visiting Fisherman's Wharf, someone broke into their rental car and took the ashes from the trunk.

Julia and Mary called police. Dispatchers told them to fill out an online report even after they explained what was stolen, so they then called reporters.

After ABC7 News contacted SFPD Thursday, officers met the women at the garage to conduct a thorough investigation.

Julia said they received the call Saturday.

"They told us that someone had turned him in to one of the undercover officers," Wilkinson said.

David Stevenson, the San Francisco Police Director of Strategic Communications told ABC7 News by phone Saturday that SFPD has a person of interest.

Stevenson also said the remains were recovered late Saturday afternoon. He said SFPD's Central Station Auto Burglary Abatement Unit played a role.

"There's no words to describe the joy and the overwhelming love I have in my heart for having him in my hands and having him back with us," said Wilkinson.

The family is deeply grateful and hopeful their story might help someone else.

"In the future, if someone calls with a situation like this I would hope they would listen a little more attentively," Wilkinson said.

Through it all Julia said she never lost sight of her faith in love.

"I am a firm, firm believer, you can call it what you want, universe, spirit, God, I don't know, it is what it is and it's a powerful force and it's a higher power than us, but it works," Wilkinson said.

The women now plan to take Joe's ashes home to Charlotte, North Carolina where his other daughter is and possibly eventually to his hometown of Philadelphia.

Wilkinson said in the end she believes her father found his way back to them.
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