UPDATE: Thief returns phones containing digital memories to bereaved Somerville family

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SOMERVILLE, Ala. - Recently we told you about the Weaks family of Somerville who had two phones stolen from their car in the parking lot of the Priceville Palace Dance Hall. The monetary value of the devices was one thing, but it was the sentimental value of lost photos and videos on the phones that was most troubling to Sheila Weaks. Sheila's sister, Diedra Mitchell, died after a car accident almost two years ago when her daughter, Kadence, was only 3 months old.

In their quest to get the stolen phones back, the family reached out to WHNT News 19 to take action and help them in their mission. In the process, a man called the Weaks and claimed he had the phones, swindled half of the offered reward money from the family by promising to return their property, then promptly changed his number and disappeared.

Roadblock after roadblock did not deter Sheila Weaks, though. She pounded the pavement, going door to door and posted hundreds of flyers about the cell phones.​ There have been plenty of twists and turns.  But, we are happy to report that Weaks' hard work and amateur sleuthing finally paid off.

"Tuesday night, iCloud picked up both phones. One was located at a specific address in Lacey's Spring. The other was located at a specific address in Huntsville."

So Weaks continued to investigate, visiting both neighborhoods and talking to people who lived there. Someone even offered to up the reward amount by $100 for the family.  So, the community was definitely behind them. Eventually, Sheila started to get names.

"I was given the name of not only the person that broke into the car. But, I was given the name of the person who I was told had the phones as of Thursday."

She got the number, too, eventually getting in touch with a young man who said he had the phones and would mail them back. The family waited with bated breath and four days later they arrived with a peculiar hand-written apology.

The note that arrived with the phones

The note that arrived with the phones

'I deeply apologize for your inconvenience,' the note read. 'And my heart and sympathy goes out to you and your family. Just to let you know my 10-year-old son found these phones in the parking lot at the grocery store in a bag and my neighbor showed me the flyer and my heart sunk -- sorry.'

"It's kind of hard to have something like this taken and not be willing to go the extra mile and do whatever you can to get somebody's memories back," said Sheila, who says she doesn't believe the claim in the letter for a second. Sheila was told the person who returned the phones was a notorious thief. Still, she nor the family have any intentions of pressing charges, as promised. She just hopes this can be a learning opportunity for the person to change their ways and think the next time before they steal something.

Back Story

These days, our smart devices contain more that just our list of contacts.  Most of us keep our entire lives on our phones. After someone stole two phones belonging to a Morgan County family, they are desperate to recoup not the devices themselves, but the precious last memories of their late sister, Deidra.  Deidra Mitchell died unexpectedly at just 30 years old, nearly two years ago this January.

"She was driving home from a friend's birthday party and her heart completely stopped," explains sister Sheila Weaks. "Friends in the car managed to get the car stopped. One of the friends happened to be an EMT; started CPR on her, called the paramedics, they had to shock her seven times before they got her heart started again."

Deidra Mitchell (PHOTO: Sheila Weaks)

Deidra Mitchell (PHOTO: Sheila Weaks)

Deidra was on life support for nearly three weeks. She fought hard but her body finally gave out. Deidra left behind a 10-year-old son, an 8-year-old step-daughter, an 8-year-old step-son, and her daughter, Kadence, who was only 3 months old at the time of her mother's death.

Now 2 years old, all Kadence has left of her mommy is digital memories -- memories stolen when the family's phones were taken.

Recently while enjoying an evening at Priceville Palace Dance Hall, Sheila Weaks' brother inadvertently left his car unlocked. When someone took two iPhones from his car, they had no idea what they were robbing the family of.

One of the phones had photos of Deidra before her accident, pictures of the mom and her children.  Even a simple selfie means the world when that's all you have left.

Even the owner of Priceville Palace, who says he hasn't ever had anything like this happen at his establishment in 22 years, has joined the campaign to find the phones.

"All of it is on these phones. And whoever stole them, they took away memories that we have but that she doesn't," Weaks said, squeezing her niece tighter. "She's never gotten to hear her mom laugh; you know, see her smile, hear her voice."

The family has filed police reports and tried to track the phones via iCloud.  They have also posted flyers all over the community and saturated social media with pleas.

"As long as the memories are still on the phones, we're willing to do just about anything to get them back," said Weaks.

'Almost anything' includes offering a $200 reward for the return of the phones and agreeing not to press charges against the thief if they decide to do the right thing.

If you have any information on the family's two stolen iPhones, please call Sheila Weaks at (256) 566-8549 or (256) 303-1259.

Sheila says if nothing else, the thief can copy the videos and photos of Deidra Mitchell onto a disk or SD card and slip the memories in the mail to P.O. Box 343 Somerville, AL, 35670.