Thanksgiving Night Theft Puts Family On The Edge

By Mitch Traphagen (

RUSKIN - He had recently lost his job and on Thanksgiving night, someone had stolen the family car. But the question Al and Claudine Leger had was, "What kind of a Thanksgiving could they have had?"

They wondered what could Thanksgiving have meant to someone who would steal a car that had two children’s car seats, Christmas presents and a stroller in it.

The vehicle was last seen in the family’s Ruskin driveway on Thanksgiving night. "We went to my Dad’s for Thanksgiving in Lake Wales," said Claudine Leger. "We got home and my husband had to run out to get milk at 10 p.m. On Friday morning, my daughter was out playing and she yelled into the house, "Mom, where is the Blazer?" We called the police and they asked if we were behind on payments. We said no. They called back later. They said it was found on 30th Street SE at 2:37 this morning on fire.

The 1998 Blazer was burned almost beyond recognition. It and all of the contents are a total loss.

The situation has put the family into a precarious situation. Al Leger was recently laid off from his job as a pipe fitter. Claudine, who’s hours had already been cut, was recently notified that her job will be eliminated on Jan. 1. With the sudden loss of income, the couple was forced to make hard decisions. One of those difficult decision involved allowing their automobile insurance to briefly lapse.

"My husband got laid off," Leger said. "Back in August my hours were cut from 40 hours to 20 so we were struggling already and our insurance lapsed. At Thanksgiving my Dad surprised us with the money to pay the insurance."

But that surprise help came just a little too late. Only hours later, their truck was found ablaze in a deep ravine on the outskirts of Ruskin. Several mailboxes down the road had been damaged in what appeared to have been a destructive joy ride on the part of the thieves.

There is no joy, however, for the Leger family. They are now depending on a 13 year old vehicle and, as they still have a loan on the now destroyed Blazer, will have to come to terms with their finance company. In addition to finding another family car, they will have to continue paying for a vehicle they no longer can use. Even in the best of circumstance, that could be a financial challenge. The coming Christmas season and their three young children make the situation all the more difficult.

"Two car seats were burned, a stroller was burned, Christmas presents from our Thanksgiving trip that family had given us, my camera and clothes and even a diaper bag," said Leger. "I asked the wrecker company if there was anything salvageable and they said, "Ma’am, there are ashes. There are no seats, no steering column, nothing. The tires are melted, the rims are melted."

The family is in desperate need of a car seat for four-year-old Morgan and a car seat and stroller for one-year-old Alyssa.

"All Friday I was in shock - I kept looking out the door to see if our truck was there," said Leger. "With all of the problems that we’ve had, we were trying to get things together but I really have to wonder, what kind of Thanksgiving did these people have? They had to see the car seats, they had to see the Christmas presents."

If you or someone you know can help the family, please call 645-4193.

Mitch Traphagen Photos

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