Stolen wallet returned to owner — 23 years later

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

In 1990, Jeri Cox Chastain or Reidville, South Carolina had her wallet stolen.

Last week, she got it back. It was in mint condition.

On Wednesday, an officer in the nearby Spartanburg called her:

"He said he had some property of mine that had been recovered, and I could not imagine what had been lost," Chastain told NBC News. "He said, 'I have a blast from your past. I'm holding your navy blue—' and I said, 'My wallet.' And he said, 'Yes, ma'am, your wallet.'"

In the 23 years since, Chastain says she's gone through "a whole lifetime of changes."

A single mother working two jobs at the time of the theft, Chastain is now remarried. She owns her own business. Her young son is now grown up.

The returned wallet, found in the ceiling of a second-storey women's washroom in a building a few miles from the now-closed hospital when Chastain once worked as a medical transcriptionist, now serves as a time capsule of sorts — complete with her son's birth certificate, her old driver's license, their social security cards, and photos she had assumed were lost forever.

"It's in perfect condition. The pictures are perfect," she told NBC News of the photos of her then-5-year-old son. "There was one in there of him and I when he was three months old. I don't have any other copies of that one. I had forgotten I had those. Or forgotten that I didn't have them, as the case would be."

Chastain told NBC News that she always suspected that a cash-strapped co-worker at Doctors' Memorial took her wallet. The co-worker had been complaining about finances the day Chastain's wallet disappeared.

She still doesn't know how her wallet ended up in the ceiling tiles of a nearby building, but she's thankful the man who found it turned it in.

"I really appreciate the man who found it," she said. "Somebody not so good took it, somebody really good gave it back."

The man who found Chastain's wallet found another wallet in the same building's ceiling tiles about two years ago. That wallet had been reported stolen in 1996.