Quick police work brings tortoise back to rightful owner

Quick police work brings tortoise back to rightful owner

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Derek McKnight Derek McKnight
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PHOENIX -

This tortoise, lost and found by its owner's neighbor, made a short pit stop before returning home. A man claimed it was his and took off, but thanks to officers, it wasn't long until "Jeeps" was back home.

"We've had her since she was a hatchling, a little tiny baby," says Trisha Walker.

Friday, Trisha Walker returned home to find her 16-year-old, 100-pound tortoise was gone. The gate was open and she was frantic.

Turns out her neighbor had seen the tortoise out walking on 62nd Ave, and she took it home. Not knowing who it belonged to, neighbor Tempest Deptuch put up fliers around the neighborhood about the lost tortoise.

"So we took it and put it in the backyard and posted in the neighborhood over by the school... about 20 minutes after a fellow called and said he lost his tortoise, he'd left it with a friend and the gate got left open," said Deptuch.

Police say the suspect took this chance to strike. He was operating an auto parts van in the area when he came across the flier about Jeeps and claimed he was the owner.

Luckily Deptuch, out of "sheer instinct," asked for his identification before giving him the tortoise.

It was mere seconds later that Walker went to ask Deptuch if she had seen Jeeps. The neighbor pointed to the departing van, and Walker started running down the street -- but to no avail.

She contacted a police officer, who took the initiative to bring Jeeps home safely -- and it was only 7 hours til he was back where he belonged.

"I'm just blown away that they understand how much we care about our kids and homes and everything else that belongs to us, that somebody else doesn't have the right to take," says Walker.

The suspect, 24-year-old Derek McKnight, was taken into police custody. He's looking at theft charges.

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