WYOMING, Mich. (March 9, 2014) – A West Michigan father has been reunited with his daughter’s missing remains after watching FOX 17 News at Ten on Tuesday.
Paul Hoogterp says he watches the broadcast every night, but Tuesday’s newscast changed his life. He says he “flipped out” when FOX 17 aired a story about an urn found on the side of a Grand Rapids road.
Hoogterp says the urn containing his daughter’s remains was stolen from his Wyoming home four weeks ago.
Grand Rapids Police Lt. Patrick Merrill confirmed the urn belongs to Hoogterp and personally returned it to him on Wednesday.
Hoogterp had reported the urn stolen to Wyoming Police and even hired a private investigator to aid in the search.
His daughter Aubrey died in 2012 at age 23 after battling addiction. “She fought a hard fight. She really fought, Aubrey did, and I just want her to rest in peace now,” Hoogterp said.
The theft angers Hoogterp, who called the thief a “heartless monster.”
Drew Mehney and Kyle Vulpetti, both 17, found the urn on the side of a road and brought the urn to Zagmaan’s Memorial Chapel. Staff then turned it into police. There were no markings or serial number – no way of identifying who it could belong to.
“I custom-ordered it, and I put the ashes in myself,” Hoogterp said.
FOX 17 was there when Hoogterp called Vulpetti to thank him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have no idea how much this means to us,” Hoogterp said. He said he planned to give the boys a finder’s fee.
“I really appreciate the good deed, and I appreciate the young man you turned out to be to do something right,” the gracious father said.
In a loss that’s still unbearable, it brings him a small amount of closure.
Hoogterp is now dedicated to finding those responsible for the unthinkable act. He’s offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to a conviction.
“Then I can be the voice for Aubrey. She deserves justice. She deserves to be left alone.”
Anyone with information should call the Wyoming Police Department at (616) 530-7300.
If the reward is not claimed, Hoogterp plans to donate the money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.