WESTHAVEN, California — A California family was dealt a double dose of tragedy when they were forced to pay a ransom to thieves who had stolen their 6-year-old son’s ashes.
Anita and Joshua Wagner’ say burglars broke into their home in Westhaven, California while they were away over the Christmas holiday and made off with a safe that contained, among other things, an urn bearing the ashes of their son, Ryan, who died in 2011 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The safe also contained several strings of “beads of courage,” Ryan had received during various stages of his tragic fight for life.
“The ashes are sacred to me and my family,” Anita wrote in a Facebook post in early January offering a $2,000 reward for their return. ”I am in tremendous pain, as if I’ve lost the only part of my son I have left all over again.”
They later raised the reward to $5,000 and said they did not wish to press charges against the criminals, as long as Ryan’s ashes were returned.
On Jan. 13, they received word from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s office that a local lawyer had reached out to say that a client of hers knew where the ashes were and wanted to split the reward money with the thieves or else they would “dump them.”
Working through the lawyer, the Wagners finally had their son’s ashes returned, although the reunion was bittersweet.
“Although we are extremely happy to have Ryan back we are further more disgusted by the criminals behind this for holding Ryan ransom because the reward money basically went to the thieves,” the couple wrote on Facebook.
They said they “are still working with authorities and It is our hopes that these criminals can still be brought to justice.”