A family’s quest to locate their stolen guitar finds a happy ending at a music store on the Northern California coast
By Anthony Mantova
Editor’s comment: Below is a lightly edited letter from a mom reunited with her guitar after a long search. Names have been changed for protection of those involved, and at their request. Mantova staff have verified the accuracy and truth of this message, but media are welcome to contact the park officials mentioned.
I write this as our beloved, family heirloom, vintage guitar is flying toward my son in college on the east coast. This story takes place in and around Eureka, but stretches so far beyond northern California with good will.
In August of 2011, my 20 year old son Drew, took his epic solo journey down the coast of California, stopping to see friends and discover some of the beauties of this magnificent coast. He stopped to take a hike in the Redwoods, only to return to a vandalized car. Devastated, and feeling totally violated, he quickly took stock of what was missing…everything. From his dirty laundry, to his backpack, to his iPod; all was gone. But the most devastating was his vintage guitar that I gave him for graduation from high school. This was my guitar when I purchased it as a young teen in the 70′s channeling Joni Mitchell. This guitar saw a petulant 17 year old girl playing Dylan’s “The Times they are a Changing” to her parents. This guitar was played by Drew’s older brother, passed on down to Drew where upon it became his third arm. He played it for hours on end, daily.
After the National Park Officer Heide Barker took his statement, and description of all the missing items, he was sent on his way to get the window fixed in Eureka.
Most of his things were retrieved at another trail head down the road. A week later, his iPod was discovered with other stolen items on two people. Still no sign of the guitar. Within hours of the break-in, I was able to put together a flyer-with-picture and description of the stolen guitar, which was faxed to all the pawn shops and music stores in the area. After many frantic calls to shops and local law enforcement over the next few days, we just had to sit back and wait.
A month passed and a very kind Officer Lundie of the Eureka police offered some advice. Time to let this go. They never come back. That’s what I kept hearing.
Now push forward to mid-January.
Feeling lucky one Sunday morning after I found a lost item on a fence post in my neighborhood, I tried Humboldt County Craig’s List one more time. And there it was…1970′s Guild Guitar! (Oh my oh my!) Appraised at $1,800 and asking $1,500. No picture posted, but when my husband wrote he was very interested, the seller (20 year old male, from Eureka) sent him pictures that left us no doubt.
We spent the rest of the day with photos; finding ones we have of the tortoise shell pick plate below the sound hole and enlarging it. Placing these alongside of the photo the seller sent:: It’s like a fingerprint: a direct, undisputable match. Yes, lesson we learned here was to be sure to have the model and serial number on important items before you head out of the house with them.
Next we contacted the US Park Rangers Law Enforcement Division for Redwoods and State Parks and were assigned to Office Chad Mclean. He received all our gathered evidence, including the Facebook page of the seller, and started building the case. We knew he understood that time was of essence since he worked late into the night, calling us with questions. We were nervous that the seller might panic and the guitar would disappear again. The very next day, after presenting the case to the D.A., Office Mclean said he could not connect the seller with the original theft, but could seize the guitar as stolen property.
On a Wednesday in January, Office McLean and other law enforcement agents set up a sting, near Mantova’s Two Street Music in Eureka, so they could “get the guitar checked out” posing as the buyer (us!) confronting the seller. No…he didn’t know the guy that sold it to him. No..he didn’t know it was stolen. At this point, the seller left without the stolen property. When Officer Mclean got back to his office, he called us and let us know all was well, and emailed us this picture.
I can’t tell you how impressed we are with the professional response the U. S. Ranger office offered us. They never offered us false hope, but clearly did what they could to reunite us with our guitar. As Anthony at Mantova’s Two Street Music told me more than once: “This never happens after such a long time. We hardly ever see stolen instruments come back.”
She’s not much to look at, but this guitar is priceless to our family and will continue moving in music circles with my son and his music career.