Jefferson City Man Finds Stolen Car After 16 Years
JEFFERSON CITY - "Maybe it's how parents can tell their twins apart but nobody else can."
16 years ago on April Fools' Day, Ed Neeley had his heart broken.
"I had it double-bent so you could slide in and out of the car easier. Let me pull off the hood"
His 1969 Camaro left with another man.
"It was the first car I ever owned. I was 18-years-old and I used my graduation money to buy it."
For 16 years, the theft of his beloved Chelsey Pearl was a thorn in his side.
"I said it pains me to even go to a car show."
Knowing he could never replace his first love, a college degree was the nudge he needed to learn to love again.
"When I graduate, I'll just buy myself another 1969 Camaro. So that night I just googled '1969 Pro Street Camaro.' I was just going through looking a them like this... right there. There was a generic 'for sale' sign and something in the back of my brain said 'click here' and I almost fell over and just fainted. I was like 'oh my god'... and I click again... another picture. And another picture. I said 'that's my car.' I called the city police out in Utah where it was and they said 'it didn't match your VIN number' and said 'it wasn't your car. You cannot tell your car from picture son, the internet, it's changed.."
"I said that is your car....cause I'd seen it too many times in so many years I just knew it was his," said Bob Neeley, Ed's father.
"I'm sure they thought oh it's some dumb country boy from Missouri. We'll tell him this that and the other thing. He ain't gonna do anything about it," Ed said.
Ed wouldn't let up. He and his father traveled to Utah to try to convince authorities the car on the internet although repainted belonged to him.
"It just looked like a little kid got in her mom's makeup you know with the lipstick and the eye shadow," Bob said.
The thief had also changed the VIN number.
"See right here where that hole is."
But Ed knew there was a hidden vin number under the dash.
"They got a search warrant. Looked at the hidden VIN number they said they looked at before... and they said, 'oh yeah it's your car.' It's a crazy story..."
"It just tickles me because I want to ride in it," Ed said.
"Yeah, it won't start."
Ed paid to have the car shipped back to Missouri. He's working now to get it running again. The Chelsey Pearl will also have a new vanity license plate.
"I don't know it was on the thesaurus for stolen."
With videographer Scott Schaefer, that's a 'Sarah Story.'
If you're interested in helping Ed Neeley form a group to help other drivers locate their long lost rides, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.