Florida Father Reunites With Daughter’s Ashes After Police Find Stolen Pickup Truck

Alan Cheung
By Alan Cheung
September 16, 2019USshare
Florida Father Reunites With Daughter’s Ashes After Police Find Stolen Pickup Truck
A police officer provides security near the parking lot of the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, on Nov. 8, 2018. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

A Florida father’s pickup truck with an urn containing his daughter’s ashes was stolen from Tampa and found in another city, according to officials.

The truck was stolen in the parking lot of the Staybridge Suites hotel, Fox 13 reported.

Donald Butler and his family stayed there and prepared for his daughter’s funeral.

When the truck was missing, Butler made a plea to the thief.

“You don’t know the pain,” he told Fox 13. “Just drop off the ashes, keep the truck.”

Authorities found the truck in Plant City located around 20 miles away from Tampa.

Butler said that he had emptied the truck so that he could trade it, ABC News reported.

“The only thing in it was Nikki,” Butler said.

The Hillsborough County Police sent out a message for the public’s help.

“STOLEN TRUCK!” the sheriff’s office wrote on Twitter. “Unknown suspects removed the victim’s Ford F-150 crew cab from the parking lot of Staybridge Suites. There was an urn with his daughter’s ashes inside of the truck when it was stolen.”

Nicolle Butler, his 27-year-old daughter, was a first-grade teacher that died in a motorbike accident, ABC News reported.

Butler described her as someone who loved her job and felt motivated to prevent bullying.

“She had a good, strong head,” Butler said.

He told Fox 13 that he was thrilled to get Nicolle’s ashes back.

Bottle With Man’s Ashes Resumes Journey

In related news, a bottle containing the ashes of a Texas man along with some handwritten notes from loved ones has been returned to the Gulf of Mexico, resuming its ocean journey after it washed up on a Florida Panhandle beach.

Sgt. Paula Pendleton of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said she cried while reading the notes, which included the phone number of the deceased man’s family. His mother had placed four $1 bills in the bottle to help pay for the phone calls she hoped people would make to update her family on the bottle’s journey.

Bottle with ashes continues travel
Sgt. Paula Pendleton poses with a bottle that washed ashore near Miramar Beach, Florida. (Corey Dobridnia/Walton County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

“This bottle contains the ashes of my son, Brian, who suddenly and unexpectedly passed on March 9, 2019,” one of the handwritten notes said. “I’m sending him on one last adventure.”

A second note, written on wrinkled school paper, especially moved Sgt. Pendleton, whose husband died last year.

“When my father passed, I was 14-years-old,” the message read. “It has struck our whole family pretty hard and, so far, it has been a very hard road. But, like my granny said, he loved to be free. So, that’s exactly what we are doing.”

Pendleton knew she had to help.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion,” Pendleton recalled. “I sat in here, in my patrol car, and cried like a baby.”

Pendleton enlisted an acquaintance who owns a charter boat to ferry the ashes far off the Florida coast. And on Friday, the bottle, the dollar bills and the ashes were again at sea.

“He was an avid fisherman. He wanted to travel the world,” his mother Darlene Mullins said. “We thought it might have been the last we saw of the bottle, but we’ll see where it turns up again.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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