FREELAND (WJRT) - (02/01/17) - It was a high school dream turned into a family's pride and joy -that is until thieves stole the classic car hundreds of miles away from home.
But, this story has a happy ending.
It begins in 1993 when Eric Worth first laid eyes on his beloved 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS.
"Had the car since I was 15 years old. Bought it as a jalopy on the side of the road," he said said.
Piece by piece, year after year, it slowly came together.
"It was a project for me and my dad," Eric said.
In high school, they got rid of the rust and made sure it was safe to drive.
When he bought it, the car was blue. It was a big part of his life.
Eric and wife Kerri even posed with it at their wedding.
Together, Eric and Kerri finished the car in time to start a family. They wanted it done so Eric would have plenty of time to spend with their future children.
"I got out of college, had a little more money. So I put a bigger motor in it, better transmission, different rear end in it. Made it go pretty good," Eric said.
Their children, Karson and Ayla, loved it too. They liked to go get ice cream in it.
"It goes really fast," Ayla said.
"I do want to drive it when I get older," Karson said.
Karson almost didn't get that chance.
It was last August and Eric was enjoying a guy's weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. He and his buddies were staying at a hotel. A friend in a different room first noticed the problem.
"Texted me, 'Where'd you go for breakfast?' I texted him back, 'I didn't go anywhere for breakfast' with a big question mark. The text back is, 'Where's your car," Eric said.
Eric thought it his friend was joking.
"We got down to the parking lot, it was the real deal. Car was gone," Eric said.
Immediately, Eric turned to Facebook. His original post was shared more than 52,000 times.
This is what it read:
"It's with a very heavy heart that I'm writing this post. What started out as a great weekend trip down south to the NSRA nationals in Louisville Kentucky has now turned into my worst nightmare. Last night in the hotel parking lot, the car I have owned since I was 15yrs old was stolen from me!! I have heard stories on the internet of this happening to people, but never thought it would happen to me!!! This just doesn't seem real!!"
The Louisville Metro Police Department was on the case, too.
The hotel Eric stayed at was being remodeled, so there were no surveillance cameras to help.
Eric had to return home to Freeland without his car.
The worst part?
"How was I going to break the news to the kids, that the car was gone," he said.
Karson took it pretty hard.
"First thing he asked is, 'How are we going to go get ice cream now?'" Eric said.
Then in December, the police department called. They had a lead.
"Lead panned out and they were able to find the car," Eric said.
Eric's car had been found in an empty garage and someone had been parting out the car, likely to be sold.
"Stole everything out of it, drive shaft along with it," Eric said.
So much was missing, but it didn't matter.
"I'm ecstatic to have it back. It's having another family member. I thought I lost a family member and I got it back," Eric said.
The detective who tracked it down made sure Eric got every last piece.
"He told all of his guys to, whatever bolts they find on the ground, sweep them up and put them in a bucket," Eric said.
In January, Eric went to Louisville to get the car. He had to piece some of it together in order to trailer it home. Then, the true assessment began.
"Lot of scratches, lot of body work. It's going to have to be repainted," he said. "I'm thinking it's going to be at least two years that it's going to take me to get this thing rebuilt."
He'll have some help getting back on the road.
Just as Eric's dad helped him, Karson and Ayla have plans to help their father.
"I'm really happy and I think that we get it back together. I just really just want to help," Karson said.
The person or people who stole the car have not been caught.
Judging by the damage to the rear of the car, Eric and the police believe whoever took it likely pushed the car out of the parking lot, but they may never know because the surveillance cameras weren't up.
Eric is thankful to the Louisville Metro Police Department for tracking down his Camaro.
Another twist in this story - the original detective handling his case passed away. Other detectives used his notes to help track it down.
You can read the police department's Facebook post about it below:
"This is an update to a case of Det. Jason Schweitzer that received national attention. It involves a 1969 Super Sport Camaro that was stolen during the Louisville Street Rods in August 2016. The story went viral on social media and ended up on the national news due to the victim having owned the Camaro since he was 15. The case was assigned to Det. Jason Schweitzer who followed up with a substantial amount of local and national crime tips pertaining to the case. Det. Schweitzer actively investigated the case up until his untimely death in October. The 6th Division Detectives continued the investigation using Det. Schweitzer's case notes and crime tips. With the joint effort of the LMPD Ninth Mobile and Officers from Probation and Parole several locations were checked and persons of interest investigated which lead to the recovery of the Camaro. The Camaro was found in an empty garage completely disassembled. The investigation is still on-going but Detectives have several persons of interest who are believed to be responsible for the theft. The victim, Eric Worth, was notified right before Christmas of the recovery and told Detectives this was the best Christmas present ever. Mr. Worth recently made the drive to Louisville from Michigan to retake possession of his car. He brought along with him friends who were able to help reassemble the Camaro at the LMPD 6th Division from all of the parts Detectives had recovered. Mr. Worth expressed his gratitude to the members of LMPD and to that of Det. Jason Schweitzer for recovering something that is much more than just a car to him."