By Cleveland Dietz
A handicapped-accessible van that was stolen from a Greenwood family on New Year’s Day has been recovered, but whether it’s salvageable remains unclear.
The 2010 Dodge Caravan had been converted for Tyler Parson, who is confined to a wheelchair because of Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare neuromuscular condition similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease but slower in its progression.
When Tyler’s father, Patrick Parson, walked outside to put his things in his car as he prepared for work, he noticed the dome lights were on. Once he got closer, he saw that the contents of his glove box had been spread across the front two seats, which was when he figured out someone had broken in to the vehicle, he said. He took a step back.
“That’s when I realized I took a lot further step back than I should’ve been able to because the van was parked next to my car,” he said.
After he checked to make sure anyone who could’ve driven the van away was still home, he called the police.
Later, it occurred to him that his dome lights shut off after 15 minutes, even if they’ve been turned on manually, which meant he’d just missed the thieves. A neighbor’s surveillance camera confirmed it. The van pulled out of the driveway at 5:25 a.m. and he walked out of his house at 5:28 a.m.
“They knew what they took when they got into the van,” Parson said. “As soon as you step into the van, you can tell it’s not a typical passenger van.”
A little before 6:30 a.m., Patrick’s wife, Deanna Parson, posted a picture of the stolen van, which looks ordinary on the outside, and asked people to keep an eye out for it. The post was shared nearly 5,000 times.
“It was overwhelming, for sure, that so many took time out of their holiday to spread the word about this van,” Patrick Parson said, adding, “We were very grateful for the help, for the outreach, to find this van.”
On Jan. 3, the Greenwood Police Department told the Parsons the vehicle had been found in Indianapolis. They were able to look at it for a few minutes after it was processed, Parson said.
Three of the four tires had been taken off and the battery was gone. The running boards were damaged and the sliding door on the driver’s side sat off center and didn’t seal correctly when it was closed. Because the van was off tires for so long, there is also concern that the axles and frame are damaged, Parson said.
The interior equipment — a motorized ramp and hand controls on the steering wheel — was still there, but it was impossible to tell if the ramp worked because the battery was gone.
On Jan. 7, the Parsons’ insurance company told them it had the vehicle and was deciding what to do.
Some of Tyler Parson’s friends started a GoFundMe page after the theft to help replace the van, but it has been deactivated because the vehicle was recovered.
However, it was still unclear as of Jan. 8 what insurance would decide and whether it would use the value of the base vehicle or factor in the cost of the conversion, which was more than $40,000, Patrick Parson said.