CHARLOTTE — A Charlotte family is desperate to find their child’s precious mementos after they went missing when their family’s van was stolen.
Investigators believe the thief likely used lessons learned from a TikTok challenge to steal the Kia Sedona last Thursday.
Channel 9′s crime reporter Hunter Sáenz spoke with that family, and learned they were able to find the van hours after it was stolen. However, it was wrecked and was seriously damaged.
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Now, they’ve been forced to rent a car until they’re able to replace the van, which is their only vehicle. But they care more about what they lost inside.
The family told Sáenz the van was stolen from outside their apartment off West W.T. Harris Boulevard.
“We had both the keys upstairs. The car was locked,” Catherine Ramirez said.
Ramirez was stunned to find it stolen, and even more taken aback when she found out her minivan was wrecked. It was found hours after it was stolen -- about 20 minutes away off Hidden Forrest Drive. The front bumper, hood, and wheel well were all badly damaged. Inside, the steering wheel column near the ignition was ripped apart, which is the tell-tale sign of the thief using a USB plug-in device to steal the car. It’s a challenge that’s been widely seen on TikTok.
“Now we’re looking over our shoulders,” Ramirez said. “I was already weary of the TikTok challenge -- I knew about it, but I found out about it after we purchased that vehicle.”
But perhaps the worst part of the situation is that her 2-year-old son Wyatt’s precious handprint paintings, a book signed by his teachers throughout his young life, and even his car seat were all stolen.
“Those were memories -- handprints of him at certain ages, we were working on creating an art portfolio of him -- just to look back on. He’s our only child,” Ramirez said.
“It was very special items that were in there that were taken away and we can’t get those back,” she added.
The family is renting a car in the meantime, and said their insurer is classifying the van as a total loss.
As police search for who did this, Ramirez has a message for that person.
“There’s more than just a joyride at stake here. There are actually people’s lives,” she said.
The Ramirez family said they’re thankful nobody was hurt.
In the first three months of this year, more than 800 Kias and Hyundais were stolen in Charlotte. That’s up more than 1,800% percent.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has given out hundreds of steering wheel locks to combat the problem. In New York City, officials are taking a unique approach by giving out 500 Apple AirTags to car owners in an effort to track down stolen cars.
(WATCH RELATED: CMPD to hold second steering wheel lock giveaway to prevent Kia, Hyundai thefts)
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