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Burglars return stolen computers to nonprofit, leave apology note

By Natalia Perez-Segnini, CNN
updated 4:21 PM EDT, Sat August 10, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Burglars stole computers from San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services
  • When they took the computers, they caused $5,000 in damage
  • The burglars returned everything they took and even left an apology note
  • "Those persons that came into the office had a change of heart," executive director says

(CNN) -- Even burglars have a heart.

Just a few hours after stealing six computer towers and a new laptop in San Bernardino, California, a group of burglars had a change of heart and returned the stolen items after realizing they had broken into a rape crisis center. Going one step further, they left behind an apology note.

"I was in disbelief. We're still in shock. ... It's crazy," said Candy Stallings, executive director of San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services.

Stallings received a call from the office's security system company around 10:30 p.m. on July 31, saying that motion was detected in the office and that police were on their way.

Once Stallings arrived at the crime scene, police told her the crafty burglars had managed to sneak inside via the roof. When they took the computers, they caused $5,000 in damage.

"It was pretty devastating," she said. "... I thought that we're never going to recover from this. ... Every single computer we have is so vital to the work that we do."

After police surveyed the scene and secured the area, Stallings went back home to try to sleep. A few hours later, she received another call. This time from San Bernardino police telling her there was more suspicious activity on the property.

Stallings rushed back to her office to find something that neither she nor the police department would ever expect: The burglars had returned everything they had taken and even left an apology note tucked away in the laptop.

"We had no idea what we were takeing (sic)," the note read. "Here your stuff back we hope that you guys can continue to make a difference in peoples live. God Bless."

When Stallings read the note, she said, she got chills. "It's unbelievable. Even today it's unbelievable. ... One minute everything was gone, and the next minute everything was back," she said.

"Those persons that came into the office had a change of heart. They had some compassion."

Lt. Paul Williams said he has been working for the San Bernardino Police Department for more than 20 years and "this was the first time that I have ever seen where somebody committed a felony and then through guilt returned the items with a note," he said. "That's some major guilt there or what?"

Stallings said she plans to frame the note in the office. "We're going to look at it every day. You never know how you're going to touch someone and change their lives," she said.

The now-famous note has garnered a lot of attention for the nonprofit. "Victims are calling from all over the place, wanting to talk. The note is bringing a lot of people to our services that needed our services all along," Stallings said.

The note has also brought in donations to the sexual assault services office. Stallings created a donation page online because she received so many calls and e-mails from people wishing to show their support.

Stallings posted on the donation website, "The fact that you cared enough to give has touched our hearts. Every little bit helps."

From the archives: Intruder calls 911, afraid homeowner might have gun

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