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Stolen urn returned to Lodi church after theft

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Posted: Saturday, December 1, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 3:10 pm, Sun Dec 16, 2012.

A bronze urn containing the ashes of a late Lodi resident was returned to First United Methodist Church on Thursday.

Leanne Schaffer of San José received a phone call at 3 p.m. from Pastor Lori Sawdon informing her that the urn holding the remains of her mother, Tita Hutchens, had been recovered.

"She said, 'You're not going to believe this,'" said Schaffer. "But it was in the church courtyard with a note."

The note was addressed to the church, and expressed a prayer that her family could find peace by reclaiming the urn.

"I recently found this beautiful box not too far from the church and immediately recalled reading a very disturbing article about recent burglaries at several local churches," read the note. "It just broke my heart to read that these thieves had stolen an urn, what ignorant fools."

It was signed "A Lodi Resident."

The urn was stolen on Nov. 12 during a break-in at the church. The urn was being stored in Sawdon's office while an outdoor niche was under construction. The office was ransacked, but thieves did not take the computers, cash donations or tools sitting out. The only item taken was the large bronze urn. Officers with the Lodi Police Department said thieves may have assumed the item was valuable to recycle without realizing what it contained.

Schaffer came to Lodi on Friday to pick up her mother's remains. She stopped by Donahue Funeral Home to see if the urn had been tampered with, but it was completely sealed and in good condition.

"We're grateful. It's just a relief. I was sad that Mom was stolen, but I was OK. She lives on in our hearts and memories. But now we can put her to rest and all of us can have peace," said Schaffer.

Hutchens' ashes will find a place on the mantle in Schaffer's home until the family can determine a permanent location.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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