Poway family’s grief returns after theft of items
By Emily Sorensen
A Poway family found themselves grieving all over again, after a theft of their trailer from an Omaha, Neb., motel parking lot left them without all their photos and mementos of their son, who died this past June.
Stewart and Rita Skomra, who were in the process of moving to Chicago for Stewart’s job, thought they had done everything right by parking their U-Haul trailer in a well-lit, camera-monitored parking lot of the motel where they were staying for the night. When they woke the next morning, they discovered their trailer was gone, along with all of Rita’s winter clothes, personal belongings — and all their family photos and mementos of their son Trent, a 2008 Poway High School graduate who died in his sleep in June at the age of 23.
“It was like reliving Trent’s passing again,” said Rita Skomra. “We had a box from his funeral, with the program, pictures of the flowers, and all the cards we received, all gone.”
Trent, who had played soccer at Poway High School, was a recent graduate of California State University San Marcos, and had just moved to Columbus, Ohio, to attend the Ohio State University School of Law. In June, while visiting his grandparents in Lisbon, Ohio, Trent passed away in his sleep. “My husband woke up early to say goodbye to Trent [because Stewart Skomra was leaving] and discovered he was gone,” said Skomra.
The Skomras had attached GPS tracking devices to the trailer, to test them for Stewart Skomra’s job, and though the thieves removed five of them, the Skomras were able to follow the remaining device to find their trailer. By the time they found it, however, it was empty.
The thief, identified by 10News as Chad Franco, was caught when he tried to cash some of the Skomras’ savings bonds. According to Skomra, Franco said he had heard about the family and the lost photos on the news and felt bad, telling the police where he disposed of the mementos.
Franco had thrown the photos and many of their other belongings in a ravine. The police, and later the Skomras, were able to salvage some of their belongings from the ravine, but many are still missing, and a number of the recovered photos are water-damaged. “When the police told us, we flew out to see the area and found some more of our stuff,” said Skomra. “We found my husband’s brother’s ashes.”
Still missing are Skomra’s winter clothing, which concealed a greater treasure: Many of their framed photos were tucked between her coats and sweaters for safe keeping. “We asked the investigator to ask [Franco] where my clothing is, because they have photos between them,” said Skomra.
“There’s a lot still missing,” she said.
If any friends or acquaintances of Trent Skomra have any photos of him, they can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, in the hopes of replacing a few of the Skomra family’s lost memories.
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