‘A Christmas miracle’: Stolen historical books returned to Sonora church

Local News

TUOLUMNE COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Stolen historical books from a Tuolumne County church are now back in their rightful home, with the help of an unlikely community member.

For Pastor Randy Ehle, the return of these historical documents are better than a Hollywood script. 

“This is better than a Hallmark movie, and in a lot of ways, it really is — without the romance, of course,” Pastor Randy Ehle of The Journey Church of Sonora told FOX40.

“It’s kind of a Christmas miracle and we were thrilled to be able to be of service and be part of that,” said Charles B. Smith, a criminal defense attorney.

Last month, burglars had stolen a laptop, electronics and a safe that contained these books dating back to 1857 from the Journey Church.

For weeks, the pastor prayed for the documents’ return.

“By last week, I had all but given up hope on ever seeing those documents again,” Pastor Ehle said.

Before he could, a former police officer turned Jamestown criminal defense attorney got word that the documents had been found.

“Have never gone to the church, we didn’t know nobody at the church, but my wife was just moved and because of that, we decided to offer our services,” Smith said.

Smith and his wife Mary offered a $500 reward, plus confidential consultation.

“The person who found them could safely return them without being worried about the police being called or this being a trap,” he explained.

Although now weather-worn, the books are back home.

As for the Good Samaritan who returned them, the reward money is now going towards what the church has longed worked to do — work that goes towards hope and healing.

“Any time you can take money out of a lawyer’s pocket and give it to the community, that’s a good day,” Smith said, with a laugh. “It’s a good day for people.”

“I love the fact that the person who found these documents and took that reward money is doing that same thing,” Pastor Ehle added.

The Smiths say they donate to various projects throughout Jamestown anonymously. They had to share their identities this time to help facilitate the return of the documents. 

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