Atascadero police recently found a surprising item in a cache of apparently stolen property — a box of World War II-era letters written by a soldier to his family on the Central Coast.
In September, police searched a storage unit belonging to a suspect accused of possessing stolen property and who was later arrested, according to an Atascadero Police Department news release.
When going through the items in the unit, officers found a box containing old photographs and letters written by a solider who served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
The suspect could not explain how he obtained the letters, and police seized them for safekeeping.
Officer Kristian Wood, an Army veteran, researched the contents of the letters and found they were written by John Lucas Sr., who served in the 144th Infantry Regiment, according to the news release.
Lucas sent the letters to his wife, Henrietta, and son, John Jr., between 1940 and 1945, when they were living in San Luis Obispo. Wood also found a Western Union money transfer receipt, which showed Lucas was sending money home to his wife and son.
The Atascadero police dispatch center found Henrietta had died, and staff were unable to find any contact information for John Sr., John Jr. or any next of kin.
Wood then contacted the online veteran community, which helped him locate another son, Lawrence Lucas, a San Luis Obispo resident. Wood connected with Lucas and learned that John Sr. and John Jr. had both died.
Lawrence Lucas and his sister, Teresa, didn’t know about their father’s wartime letters, nor how they left the family.
Wood was able to return the box to the siblings, who were “amazed to learn the letters existed.”
“With recognition and thanks to Officer Kristian Wood for his dedication, diligence and follow-through, the Atascadero Police Department is extremely happy to have been instrumental in returning these historical family letters and heirlooms to their rightful owners,” the news release said.
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