Car stolen from paralyzed woman recovered by police

Published: Sunday, Dec. 26 2010 12:03 a.m. MST

OGDEN — A specially modified car that was stolen outside a paralyzed woman's home has been recovered and returned to its owners, according to police.

On Wednesday, around 7:20 p.m., Meg Johnson's husband, Whit, had just loaded dozens of marshmallow Christmas treats into the vehicle. The couple planned to deliver the treats to neighbors and friends that evening. He went inside to get Meg when he heard the car engine rev up and looked out the window to see tail lights as someone sped away in the vehicle.

The silver Subaru Baja had a hydraulic lift in the back and was fitted with a steering wheel knob, which is only legal for use by police officers or disabled people, Johnson said. She could also get in and out of the car on her own as well as drive it.

"It's so liberating to be able to get in your car and go wherever you want to go, get out and get where you need to be," she said Saturday. In fact, Johnson loves driving so much, she made it one of her top priorities after learning she was paralyzed in a 2004 hiking accident.

Police told her they had found a set of brass knuckles, a large pocket knife and a collection of rap CDs inside the car. And even though she said the thieves left it dirtier than it had been, Johnson said she felt sorry for the people who took her car.

"My hands are disabled and they don't work, my legs are disabled and they don't work and my tummy muscles don't work. My body doesn't work and I just think an even worse disability is one you put on yourself," she said. "Selfishness is the biggest disability, and it is definitely a choice."

The Baja was recovered Friday around 10:30 p.m. by Ogden police. However, the treats were gone.

An officer was on patrol Christmas Eve when he saw a vehicle matching the description of the Johnsons' car being driven in a neighborhood. He lost sight of the vehicle for a few minutes, but later saw it parked near 10th Street and Kiesel Avenue, with multiple individuals walking away from it, said Ogden Police Lt. David Tarran.

The officer stopped one man, but two other suspects fled, Tarran said. Other officers responded and dogs helped track the two, but they ultimately got away.

Information gathered during the investigation, however, will likely lead police to the culprits, Tarran said.

"We kind of took a special interest in this case," he said. "It touched everybody's heart here. We put in a little extra effort to find this vehicle."

Officers had been on the lookout for the vehicle since it was reported missing on Wednesday. Given the holiday season and the owners' situation, police really hoped to return it to the Johnsons, Tarran said.

"I'm happy to have it back," Johnson said. "Go Ogden police!"

e-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com; wleonard@desnews.com

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