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Stolen angel returned to grieving mother

Dolores Fresh said it was a Christmas miracle.

A statue of an angel stolen from her garden earlier this month was returned to her sometime late Dec. 29 or during the early morning hours on Dec. 30.

The angel's theft was painful for Fresh, because it is the centerpiece of a memorial garden she built in memory of her son, Eric, who was murdered in May 2002.

To get the angel back was a surprise; Fresh said she did not expect to see it again.

"It's a miracle," Fresh said.

Fresh found the returned angel Monday morning when she walked out of her house get her newspaper. The 2-foot tall, concrete statue was placed on the edge of her property.

"I had to look for a minute to believe it was actually back," she said.

Fresh had just returned the night before from a trip to New York to visit one of her two other sons. She speculated the angel was not returned before Sunday, because her outdoor lights were on every night while she was away.

She turned the lights off when she got home.

"With the yard darkened, I think the person could easily return it without being seen," Fresh said.

Contacting her sons and other family members was the first thing Fresh did Monday morning after finding the angel.

Several members of the community had offered Fresh assistance when they heard about the missing angel. One woman, who had an angel stolen from her mother's grave a few years ago, sent Fresh a donation to buy a new one.

Another woman, Jenny Grisewood was compelled to find a replacement angel for Fresh, which she did after visiting several South Whidbey hardware stores.

"It really stunned me that something like this would happen on South Whidbey," Grisewood said.

After her angel was returned, Fresh contacted both women to thank them for their thoughts and to return the donations.

Following her son's homicide, Fresh with the assistance of two close friends designed the small garden in her front yard. The angel, the final addition to the garden, was given to Fresh by a friend of the family. Its theft added to the pain Fresh and her family felt during the past year. Without the angel, the garden ceased to be a healing place for Fresh.

Now with the angel back in the garden, Fresh said it's once more a memorial to Eric.

She can see the garden from the window of her cozy den where she often sits to read with her big gray and white cat on her lap. The den walls are adorned with photos of Eric and his architectural degree and license.

The homicide remains unsolved, but Fresh takes some comfort in the goodness of people.

"Angels must eventually come home to where they belong," Fresh said.

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