Officer Mary Escobedo was called to a Skokie warehouse last month to investigate the reported theft of some copper piping. But instead of a copper culprit, she uncovered a mystery.
Something caught Escobedo's eye in the warehouse in the 3600 block of Chase Avenue on Nov. 16. Military fatigues, ammunition and a bulletproof vest looked out of the place to the former U.S. military reservist, so she kept digging.
She found personal effects, love letters and family photos, as well as an owner's name: Joshua Conyer of the U.S. Air Force.
“It was important when I found that stuff to make sure that it got back to the family," Escobedo said. "It became a personal quest.”
Police had little to go on right away. They eventually learned Conyer had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm three years ago, and the mover responsible for shipping his belongings across the country had gone out of business.
With the help of the internet, they found Conyer's widow. "It was so nice when we finally told her some of the stuff that we had," Escobedo said. "I think she was in tears."
Escobedo considers it a holiday miracle. The warehouse was in the process of getting cleaned out and prepped for demolition. If it hadn’t been for the copper theft, it’s likely Conyer’s trove of personal treasures would be in a landfill somewhere.
“it was almost as if Joshua had led us there to find that stuff,” she said.
David Low, who owns the land where the warehouse and several other buildings are located, said he noticed all of Conyer’s belongings piled around the warehouse but didn’t pay much attention to them.
“It looked like garbage,” Low said. "There were just boxes of it all strewn everywhere.”
In the end, he helped in their rescue. Low called police after he discovered someone had been stealing copper piping out of this warehouse.
“It was just happenstance that we stumbled upon this," he said.
On Saturday, Conyer’s mother drove in from central Indiana and retrieved her son’s belongings.