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Keeler: Cards and Money Stolen From My Son’s Graduation Party on Saturday

The cupcake display where the locked card box was located. The brass locked mailbox is just visible in the very right portion of the photo. (Photo by Julia Higley Soulia)

It’s not often that the radio person becomes a part of the news story; but, on Saturday night, that’s exactly what happened to me.

We threw a graduation party for my son, Benjamin and we thought the weather was our biggest threat.  Fortunately, the weather was awesome in Ilion; but, there was another threat that we had never even considered.

An unknown male snuck in through the back gate of our yard and pretended to be a guest and at the most opportune time, stole the card box that contained the gifts from friends and family.

Police are looking for a person of interest:  a Hispanic male, 18 – 25 years of age with a goatee (at the time of the party) who had a tattoo on his arm.  Witnesses say the tattoo featured a cross with a rope or snake wrapped around it.

Police also say the male might very well be a resident of the neighborhood because he used a path that’s not visible from the street that local kids use to cross over from South Fifth Ave. to South Fourth Ave. in the village.

We’re quite certain that the thief did not know us personally and was not invited to the party.  We feel he slipped onto the property through a back gate that the caterers were using and he was only seen around the cupcake display (which is where the locked card box was located) and the area near the back gate.

Many friends and family members talked with this person of interest, including my wife and they all thought the same thing: he was a friend or relative that one of us knew.  He spoke with my wife and offered to help clean up and was last seen cleaning frosting off the cupcake display at the time the party was ending.  It wasn’t until everything had happened that we realized that this person wasn’t an invited guest.

Police believe the suspect picked up the card box along with personal photos from the display and threw them over the fence in a neighbors yard.  He then walked out the back gate, picked up the box in the neighbors yard and escaped down South Fifth Avenue.

We found photos thrown in the adjacent property along with other items from my son’s

This is the locked card box as it was found by neighbors on Sunday morning. Police are searching the box for finger prints. (Photo taken by Benjamin Keeler)

graduation display.  A neighbor further down the street discovered the lockbox in their back yard on Sunday morning, broken open with all of the contents taken out.

My son has been through a lot of challenges over the last few years and this was supposed to be a moment of celebration that helped launch the next phase in his life at college.

Benjamin told me on Saturday night that despite the loss, it was the best graduation party he had ever been to and he was thankful that nobody was hurt.  He also said that our loss didn’t compare to to what so many of our friends and relatives are currently experiencing from one of the worst flooding disasters we’ve every experienced in the Valley.

The outpouring of support had been amazing from people.  My son has received cards, the band Showtime, who performed, donated a portion of their pay back and Pat O’Connor and his staff offered a reward of $1000 in gift certificates to the person who offers information that leads to the arrest of the person responsible.  O’Connor’s Moveable Feast catered the event.

We all feel tremendously violated and at the same time wonder how we could have allowed something like this to happen.  We thought we were so careful; yet, someone was able to pull off the perfect crime right before our very eyes.

It’s about trust, according to my wife.  It seems that we have to reevaluate how we go about our lives when it comes to personal security because there are despicable people out there that rely on taking advantage of that trust.

I feel that’s the saddest part of this story.

If anyone has any information that might be helpful in this case, we’re asking that they contact the Ilion Police at 894-9911.  All calls will be kept confidential.  

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