Tanjia Mitchell grieves over the loss of her 26-year-old daughter at a roadside memorial near the intersection of Dairy Road and Snicole Avenue in Melbourne. The mother has visited every day since her daughter, Beth Bryant, was killed in a car accident at 1:58 a.m. Sunday morning.
"I was just looking at the cross that someone put there" said Mitchell. "I was thinking about when she was a baby, and how I held her."
But during the mother's grieving at the memorial site on Wednesday morning, Melbourne police say she became the victim of a crime. A car burglar, recorded on surveillance video, reached into her unlocked car while it was parked on the other side of Snicole Avenue. Police say he stole her deceased daughter's small handbag, which contained her daughter's possessions that her mother had recently collected from the morgue. Among the items stolen was a two-toned broken Bulova watch that her daughter was wearing when she died.
"I felt like they had taken my baby from me, again," the mother said fighting tears. "They took the last piece of something that was on my baby, and it's gone."
Within a half hour, police say the thief drove his purple Ford Taurus into a Target and a Walmart off Wickham Road. Surveillance cameras recorded him buying an iPad and several phone cards with the stolen credit cards. Police also said he had Beth's watch.
The mother and several loved ones went so far as to retrace the car thief's possible route along Interstate 95, between the store and the accident scene. They searched the shoulder and the median for anything that may have been discarded, like the Coach purse that held the watch.
"And I know it's material, and my baby is not there, but I know it's the last thing my baby had on her."
Police are looking for the suspect, described by police as a black man in his mid to late 20s, wearing glasses and marked with sleeve style tattoos on his arms. But police have few leads to go on, so this grieving mother is publicly begging the unknown thief, to return the broken watch, which stopped keeping time the same moment her daughter died.
"Please, I don't care if you put it in the mail" she begged, as she sobbed. "I don't care if you drop it off someplace, just bring my baby's stuff back to me."