Humboldt County authorities are are the hunt for an unknown number of safecrackers this week, after they allegedly stole the ashes of a dead child then demanded $5000 for their return.
Lost Coast Outpost reported on the robbery in late December, when "Anita Wagner and her husband returned home from a trip to the property they share with her brother-in-law. When they checked their brother-in-law’s house, they discovered that a back door had been busted in and his personal safe stolen."
Inside the safe were the cremated remains of Wagner's six-year-old son Ryan, who was felled by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011. Wagner had put Ryan's urn in the safe (which also contained an undisclosed amount of cash and some other personal effects) before leaving on a trip, she says, because they thought it would be the safest place to leave the precious reminder.
“They can keep the money, they can keep the urn," Wagner tearfully told the Outpost in December. "I just want those ashes back." Eventually, the family offered a $5000 reward for their return, a reward that Ryan's dad, Joshua Wagner, tells KRCR "turned into a ransom."
That's because last Friday, according to a post on the Bring Ryan Home Facebook page, local criminal defense attorney Kathleen Bryson contacted the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, saying that "a client of hers had access to Ryan's ashes and wanted to split the reward money with the thieves or else the people who had Ryan's ashes threatened they would dump them."
"We were told to gather the $5,000 dollars in small denominations because the individuals were paranoid of $100 dollar bills. We met with Kathleen Bryson who said she just wanted to help the situation and gave us the $500 she was paid by her client and said she was doing this for free," Wagner wrote. After 45 minutes, Bryson returned "with all of the belongings" from the safe.
Speaking with the Outpost, Bryson says that her client played no part in the theft of the ashes, as “I wouldn’t have fucking represented someone who was sharing in the reward."
“He was motivated because he heard that these people he knew were going to dump the ashes unless they received the reward," she said.
Joshua Wagner disagrees, as KRCR reports that Wagner believes that "the person who gave the ashes back is the one who stole them in the first place."
"Now they know that they pretty much got away with it,” Wagner says, noting that both the Sheriff's Department and the FBI are investigating the case. “They steal someone's ashes and get a reward for it, which is disgusting.”
Following their reunion with Ryan's remains, the Wagners say that they're going to scatter his ashes to prevent future misery.
“I'm just going to set my son free," Wagner says, "keep the empty urn, and use that as just a memory."