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Naperville dad pleads for return of son’s stolen ashes

Robert Vincze

Robert Vincze

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Updated: February 25, 2013 11:02AM



After Naperville resident David Vincze’s son, Rob, was killed just over two years ago by a hit and run driver in Aurora, the younger man’s remains were cremated, with his ashes buried and scattered at two locations in Michigan.

All except for a small amount, which the devoted father liked having close to him, especially while traveling.

Vincze owns a 4-by-4 pickup truck. “Rob loved the truck, and he loved being in the truck,” the elder Vincze recalled with a smile.

So as funeral services were being made, David Vincze’s fiancee, Laurie Cozzi, had a somewhat unorthodox notion she hoped might, in some small way, help assuage a father’s heartache.

“Laurie said, why not keep a little of him in the truck?” And with that, Vincze made sure some of his son’s ashes went into a quart-sized, zippered, clear plastic bag, which he kept in the pickup’s console.

Vincze on Saturday appealed to the public for help, after the truck was broken into last weekend. All the burglars stole was the bag containing Rob’s ashes.

The break-in occurred between the late-evening hours of Feb. 15 and early-morning hours of Feb. 16, while the unlocked pickup was parked near Jefferson Avenue and West Street just west of Naperville’s downtown.

Vincze had a sinking feeling when he went out later that morning to help a neighbor and found a case for a cassette tape and myriad papers scattered on the ground nearby, items that had been inside the truck. He was stunned by the subsequent discovery that, while the burglars had left more than $15 in loose change behind, they had taken Rob’s ashes.

“It was a state of disbelief, and then nausea set in, and then a headache set in,” Vincze said. “I realized that, basically, that’s all that was taken.”

Cozzi scoured the immediate area and then walked up and down nearby side streets, but found no trace of the bag. Vincze kept his promise to help the neighbor and then called Naperville police to report the burglary.

Rob Vincze was a 30-year-old mechanic living in Michigan when he died around 4:30 a.m. Dec. 12, 2010, after being run over on a stretch of Butterfield Road in Aurora. He and a friend, Jason Freitag, were pulling a sled that was ferrying a canister of gasoline to Freitag’s broken-down car.

A car driven by Elmhurst resident Rocio V. Garza stuck Rob Vincze and, according to Freitag, carried him several dozen yards down the road. Garza, 24, stopped only briefly before jumping back into his car and fleeing from the area.

Garza was ultimately identified and arrested. He was convicted of a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal crash and sentenced in April to four years in prison.

“Dealing with it is rough – indescribable, actually,” David Vincze said of Rob’s death. “You never think you’re going to outlive your kids. I told my family, I don’t want anybody else in my family in this ‘club.’”

And while Vincze cannot fathom why Garza ran away and left his son to die, “believe it or not, I hold no animosity against the guy.”

“Rob being killed, I can say that was an accident, but this theft of his ashes Is not,” Vincze said. “In my eyes, it’s nothing short of grave-robbing, plain and simple.”

Cozzi said she believed it was possible the burglars did not know what it was they were stealing. “We hope if they read about it, they’ll realize what they have and get it back to us,” she said, with Vincze adding, “Set it on the porch and walk away.”

A Facebook message written by Cozzi’s sister-in-law expressed similar sentiments.

“We are pleading for compassion and asking for a change of heart from someone out there,” the posting read. “We beg you to either return the ashes to the same home (from which) you took them or, if you had tossed them as you walked away, please contact me anonymously, to let us know where to look for them.”

“We understand you probably didn’t realize what you have taken. We also understand you may have fear (of) returning them. We will guarantee there will be no repercussions if they are returned.”

“If anybody knows anything, come forward,” David Vincze said of his son’s ashes. “If anybody sees anything, come forward. And if anybody’s feeling guilty, come forward.”

“This is all I had.”

Those who believe they know the whereabouts of the ashes or who have other information about the matter were asked to call Naperville police, at 630-420-6666.



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