Years after a police employee came across it, and even more years after it had been taken from its rightful owner, a priceless book has been returned to a former local resident.

Independence Police recently mailed a baby memories scrapbook to a woman who now lives in southern Georgia. The book, stolen from an Independence storage shed locker, was of a baby who died at the age of five months in 1974 and would be 45 years old now.

The book easily could have been long gone, but Kristina Owsley, a property and evidence technician, had been holding onto the book since she came across it about 16 years ago while working on routine property destruction. She just hadn't been able to track down the baby's family.

The woman, whom she declined to name out of concerns for privacy, was equally shocked and grateful to receive the news when police called her earlier this month, Owsley said.

“You find things when you're going through that, and most of it is worthless,” she said, recalling when she first saw the book. “But the cover just kind of grabbed me.”

“I flipped through it a bit, saw the baby picture and then a coffin, and I couldn't get rid of it at that point.”

Owsley said while most things she comes across from old evidence wouldn't have monetary or sentimental value, if she finds something that could be important she'll try to return those items to the appropriate person.

Periodically over the years, Owsley tried to locate family by using the family tree in the book with Google and Ancestry.com searches, and while that proved fruitless, she still kept the book.

“Part of why I kept the book was my brother died at a very early age,” she said. “He had severe birth defects, and I know it was difficult for my mother.”

Det. Sgt. Seth Bosch said he was checking with Owsley regarding a different article police had recovered when she told him about the book and unsuccessful searches. Bosch told Owsley to bring the book up to investigations to have a look.

They cross-referenced the family tree with funeral home records, law enforcement databases and Facebook, made about eight phone calls that day, by Bosch's estimation, and at one point found the baby's uncle and learned the baby's hearse even broke down on the way to the burial site.

During the search, Owsley and Bosch realized the date – Nov. 8 – marked the 45th anniversary of the baby's death.

“At that point, when looked at death announcement and realized that, we said. 'We've got to find the mom today, now.' I texted husband to say I will be home late, and I'll explain later.”

Before long, they had connected with the woman's neighbor across the street, who then put Bosch and Owsley in touch with her.

Bosch said that, at first, the woman didn't remember the day's significance, but then after some prodding she remembered the day, as well as the book.

“Oh yes, it's special,” Bosch remembers her saying.

Owsley then got a chance to talk with the woman.

“She was obviously shocked over the whole thing, and very, very thankful,” Owsley said. “I think at one point we were pretty much in tears. It was very emotional, but very happy.”

“She had assumed it was long gone and she would never see it again.”

Bosch commends Owsley because she recognized the book's value and held onto it.

“She deserves all the credit for getting it home,” Bosch said. “I was just a resource.”