Urn carrying retired Lakeland officer's ashes was stolen, deputies say

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An urn carrying the ashes of a retired Lakeland police officer were stolen, deputies said, and the former policeman's wife is hoping for its safe return.

Polk County deputies released surveillance photos of a male suspect, who appeared to be driving a white minivan. They said they ran the tag number, but the vehicle is not registered. 

They said the suspects burglarized three homes on Wednesday in the south Lakeland area, one just south of Scott Lake Road, one on Shepherd Road, and one off of Highway 98, the home where the officer’s ashes were stolen. The crimes occurred during the day, and it's unclear the number of people who were involved.

Buddy Newsome retired from the Lakeland Police Department, and later died from cancer. His wife, Michelle, also worked for the agency for 24 years, and now assists the Polk County Sheriff’s Office as a mental health counselor. 

She said her late husband’s ashes were in an urn, that sat next to her bed ever since he passed away. 

“He is gone,” she explained during a Thursday morning press conference at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “They have stolen something that cannot be replaced. He cannot be replaced. These three houses have been broken into and that’s your safe haven.”

Sheriff Grady Judd it’s possible the suspected burglar wasn’t aware of what he had stolen.

“They’re carrying around a retired police officer that stood in the gap between good and evil and protecting people,” he said. We want him back. We want the case solved and we know the community can do that for us. The power of the community is much more powerful than we are.”

Michelle, echoed the plea, hoping the urn will return home.

“I’m asking and pleading for the help that this van, these people…if we can just find them, so that I can get my husband back,” she said. “I just want my husband back.”