Widower's beloved photos of wife returned

Courtesy of CNN Newsource

(CNN) -- A picture is worth a thousand words.For a California man already broken-hearted over the death of his wife, the pictures on a camera stolen from their home were worth much more. They were priceless.He now has them back, thanks to a very observant detective.Burglary victim Dave Lacey discusses his late wife, "She's my best friend. She's obviously the woman I love."It's difficult for him to put into words his connection with his wife Erica.So it hit him hard when one of her treasured items, a Canon brand camera, was stolen in a home burglary.A year later, detectives Jerry Verdugo and Paul McClaskey nabbed the burglars.They were caught with a stack of stolen goods and receipts from a local pawn shop where they'd hocked items taken from a number of homes.This is where the story usually would end. The bad guys get nabbed, the stolen goods recovered, though it is difficult to trace and return them to the original owner. But in this case, the detectives just couldn't let go.Detectives were viewing photos on the stolen camera when it dawned on them that these were special photos.Det. Jerry Verdugo of the Santa Ana Police Department says, "As I started thumbing through it, it was apparent that it was a camera that was special. There were photographs of a funeral. We all take personal pictures, selfies, but this didn't appear to be no selfie. This appeared to be something that you're going to keep for 40, 50 years...or for the rest of your life. We got to find out who this belongs to."But how?They had no name, only the images."As I was flipping through the pictures, I noticed a wall, that just... A brown wall. That's when I went, I think I know where this is at. Let's go," Verdugo said.The hunch led them to the street pictured in the photograph.They were parked outside Dave Lacey's house.It was Erica's camera that was stolen with the images that had not been backed up on a computer.She was an amateur photographer, a hobby to fill those days as she fought large B-cell Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma.Lacey was in disbelief, "I thought it was a joke at first. To be honest, I had given up all thought of recovery."It had been a year since the camera was stolen and somehow the burglars, the pawn shop, no one erased those precious images.Lacey says, "I almost feel like someone was watching out for me. Just to get it back."In a connection where words fail, it's the pictures that speak for themselves.