Sam Nichols III was out in the fields in Auburn, Alabama, when his wife told him he got a call from the sheriff’s office in Greene County, Georgia.
A couple that had gone fishing on Lake Oconee, caught a bag containing two guns and gold fraternity and sorority pins and turned them in. After some sleuthing, authorities had good reason to believe the pins belonged to Nichols’ parents, stolen during a burglary in 1993.
“We’re pretty amazed the pins were found after 26 years. Everybody had forgotten about it,” Nichols told CNN.
The detectives tracked him down after looking at the engraving on one of the pins which carried his dad’s name, Samuel Nichols Jr, who died in 1982. They sent the items to Nichols.
“We will probably never know why the burglar tossed the bag a state away, but it’s great to be able to get these items back to the family after 26 years in the lake,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
At least one of the guns was also stolen during a different burglary in 1993, the office said. Neither weapon belonged to the Nichols family.
Both Nichols late father and mother Margaret, who died in 2013, belonged to fraternities and sororities in the 1930s, he said. “My dad was a chemistry professor at Auburn University and won several chemistry awards over the course of his career,” he said.
One of the pins has the Greek letters Phi Lambda Upsilon, a chemistry honor society. Another one has the Tri Delta sorority crescent moon symbol.
Nichols said the burglary took place at the Auburn house where he grew up and where his parents had lived for 40 years.
“Someone had cut one of the pans in the front window, climbed through and, with the help of an accomplice, went upstairs to steal a bunch of jewelry, pins, and my mother’s silver, which was engraved,” he said. “The pins had not much value per se, but a lot of personal value for my parents.”
Auburn is about a two and a half hour drive from Lake Oconee.
His mother received some proceeds from insurance and moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Nichols’ sister and brother live.
“Everyone forgot about the pins until now,” he said. “My mom would be so happy to get her pins back.”