Anna Spencer and her five children had stopped in Abbotsford overnight as part of a journey from their home in Georgia to their new residence in Fairbanks, Alaska.
They were travelling to join husband and dad Ronald, an army man who had been stationed in Alaska and had been living there since May.
Prior to leaving the four-bedroom Georgia home where they had resided for seven years, the family loaded everything they owned into a 26-foot GMC U-Haul truck.
This included all their furniture and other essentials that had filled their home, but also some irreplaceable items, such as several boxes of family photos; keepsakes that had belonged to Anna’s dad, who died 15 years ago; and military gear (no weapons) that Ronald had saved over his 15 years in the service.
The Spencers – including the five kids, ages 10 to 27 – left Georgia on July 24 in the U-Haul and a van.
They stayed at hotels along the way, without any problems.
But that changed early Monday morning, while they were staying at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre in Abbotsford.
The family checked in on Sunday night, but when they left at 11 a.m. the following day, the U-Haul was gone.
Anna, in shock and in tears, reported back to the front desk, and police were called.
Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald confirms that the U-Haul, loaded with about $100,000 in belongings, was stolen, and the theft was captured on video (below) by the hotel’s security system.
Anna said the incident has been devastating.
“That is somebody’s life in there (in the U-Haul). It didn’t take overnight to gain all of this. It took a lifetime to build what we had.”
MacDonald said it appears that a vehicle pulled up beside the truck at 3:22 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 17), and at 3:46 a.m., the U-Haul was driven away.
MacDonald said the video is too dark and grainy to get any vehicle or suspect descriptions, but police believe at least two people were involved. They likely arrived in one car, allowing one person to drive away the U-Haul while the other drove the vehicle they arrived in.
The stolen U-Haul was recovered in Surrey early Wednesday morning, and MacDonald said it appears numerous items are missing. There was significant damage to the truck’s ignition, he added.
Police have since reached the Spencers, who had continued on their journey Tuesday afternoon in their van. Their only belongings were the duffel bags they had each packed with a few changes of clothes and some personal items.
The family is now back in the Lower Mainland and, once police complete gathering evidence from the U-Haul, they will be able to review the contents to see what the thieves left behind.
Meanwhile, MacDonald said a charitable organization is covering the family’s accommodation expenses, and there has been a “huge outpouring” of support from the public with offers of cash and material donations.
MacDonald said anyone interested in helping is asked to email him at email@example.com and he will provide details on how to do so.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225, text abbypd (222973) or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.