TAMPA -- Margie Chapman thought it was gone forever - the van specially equipped for her husband, who is paralyzed and battling ALS, stolen right from their driveway.
Chapman reported it stolen on Wednesday morning. Thursday night, as 10News was getting ready to interview the family, Tampa Police officers called and said they had found it.
It was parked in a stranger’s driveway in the 8000 block of 14th St., six blocks away. Officers were waiting for Margie Chapman to come and get it. 10News followed along.
“They didn't do much to it,” she said when she first saw it.
Chapman tried to inspect for damage, and at first glance it didn’t seem like there was much. But then the homeowner who’d called police came out and told her the devastating news.
Rossalyn Brown says someone must have pushed it into her driveway because it seemed like the axles were broken.
The keys were not inside. Margie Chapman thinks she might have dropped the key outside of her house and that’s how the thieves got into the car.
“They took it for a joyride, not knowing the desperation and the agony that it caused my husband. I'm very upset because it is our van. It was our means of transportation, but it hurt me to my core to see my husband suffer,” Chapman said.
Her husband, Eric Chapman, was devastated by the theft. The van means more than freedom to him - the value to him is in where his family got it.
In 2012, a woman whose son died from ALS gave it to Eric through the ALS Association's Florida Chapter.
“It might be simple to anybody, but to my husband it means a lot. He was so happy when I told him that they found it,” she said.
Margie Chapman explained the value to Brown, the stranger who called police and helped make sure the van got back to its rightful owners.
“We thank you so much,” she said. Not ignoring it, not turning a blind eye to it. We probably never would’ve found it.”
“No, I wasn’t going to do that because I got grandkids,” replied Brown.
Tampa detectives have some leads on who stole the Chapmans' van, but they’re still processing a lot of evidence left behind.
The Chapmans are left to figure out how they’ll afford to tow it home, get a new key made and fix all of the damage.
(© 2016 WTSP)