INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Emily Tilton left the Central Assembly Church for a youth leadership conference at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

“When we got back at about 4 p.m., the truck was gone,” she said Thursday.

Tilton called her husband to ask if he had picked up the truck while she was gone. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

“We ended up talking to someone who saw a truck pull up next to mine,” she said. “They got out. They were looking around it, and at that time, the person decided to go back in their house. They thought maybe it was somebody who owned the truck. The truck may have broken down or something like that, and then it was just gone.”

Earlier this week, Tilton got an anonymous message saying her truck was less than 2 miles away, north of 23rd Street on South Mills.

“I drove by,” Tilton said. “I tried to kind of hide from the house a little bit. There happened to be another church on the backside of it, and I pulled into that parking lot, hit unlock on my key fob, so it didn’t honk, and sure enough, that was my truck.”

Unfortunately, though, the truck’s no longer drivable.

The crime also occurred at one of the worst times for Tilton. In March 2021, she lost the youngest of her three children, Raylee Mae.

“She had some medical needs. She was on oxygen,” Tilton said. “She had respiratory insufficiency, and we believe that that ultimately led to her passing.”

Tilton said grief is really hard, and even though this truck was just a material, the theft’s one more thing that has happened less than a year after her daughter passed.

“When you’re out stealing a vehicle, you don’t know what you’re doing to that family,” Tilton said. “You don’t know what memories are in it. You don’t know how their children get to school. You don’t know how they get to work. It could lead to someone losing your home, to lose childcare. There’s so much in it.”

Tilton’s mom doesn’t live far from the church, so she’s using her car while she tries to save up enough money to buy a new one. If you’re interested in helping Tilton, her church is helping to collect donations. Just select “Benevolence” in the drop down menu on the site.