This is a story about what happens when hope meets hard work.
“It just, it’s just overwhelming that — and it’s all, it looks like it’s all in one piece,” said Patrice Cox as she looked over her returned treasures.
Cox fought for four months to experience this unboxing. She’s pulled no punches after movers simply vanished with her goods.
“And you know it’s just, it’s still, it’s so surreal. I still can’t believe I actually got it back. That it’s here,” said Cox.
She hired a company named Princeton Moving and Storage out of Illinois to move her goods, but her items never arrived.
While on the hunt, she found others in a Facebook group doing the very same thing all across the country: searching for abandoned storage units and calling detectives before they items went up for auction.
For months, Cox had been told her items were on their way to Austin, Texas. But according to police, they were found in a storage unit outside of Portland, Oregon.
“This one is very unique in the sense that it’s all over the nation,” said Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Danny DiPietro.
DiPietro said detectives were able to get a search warrant after customers provided the information they found searching for storage auctions on the internet.
“A victim who really wants their stuff back obviously is motivated. And, in this case, it really helped our investigators in order to find their property and get it back,” said DiPietro.
Meanwhile, 1,300 miles away, a moving truck was abandoned in North Platte, Nebraska. Some of the goods inside belong to Cheryl Mueller. She hired Princeton in June to move from Seattle to Ocean City, Maryland.
One of those items — the ashes of her husband, who died in 2017 from brain cancer.
“Besides trying to keep my husband alive, I’ve never felt so passionate about something. This is just not right. It’s not fair,” said Mueller.
It was her detective work that jump-started police investigations in at least two states: Finding a scribbled note about a Renton Storage facility Princeton was using on her receipt and contacting authorities.
Police served a search warrant and found items for three other families — but not her things.
“I’m like this is not who I am. This is just not how it’s supposed to end. And I just kept on it and kept on it and kept hoping, you know,” said Mueller.
We contacted Princeton Moving and Storage’s owner, Gilbert Benedict. He hung up the phone on us.
Then we received a text from a person claiming to be a manager that read:
“Patrice Cox never paid cancelled payment after pickup. ... We brought her things back to Seattle so she can come get it with payment.”
There are two problems with that. First, Cox paid Princeton with a cashier’s check. She sent us a copy. Second, the items are already in her garage.
Cox and Mueller promise to continue to fight for others. And they’re asking others to join. Because everyone deserves their shot at hope.
“And if one storage unit sees this story — the owner — and says, ‘Wait a minute. I have, you know, moving companies that have rented from us.’ Maybe call your local police department,” said Cox.
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