A central Ohio man's heart sank when he realized that burglars had broken in and stolen a safe holding his most prized possession — a 300-year-old family Bible.
The Lutheran Bible, written in German Gothic script and containing the handwritten dates of births, deaths and marriages for seven generations of Tim Shier's family, went missing in the burglary in Marysville, near Columbus, in December 2011.
But thanks to a bit of luck, a sharp-eyed family member, local deputies and Goodwill —which had ended up with the Bible and then sold it online — the heirloom is back in Shier's hands.
He called it an answer to his prayers.
"Our family can't put a price on that Bible," Shier told The Columbus Dispatch for a story Tuesday. "History can never be replaced."
The effort started with the arrest of four men in the burglary. A judge offered to give one of the defendants a break if he could find the Bible. But the man came up empty, saying that he thought it had been dropped in some kind of bin.
A few weeks ago, one of Shier's cousins saw a reference to an old German Bible on the website ancestry.com. She called Shier, who called the sheriff's office in Union County where he lives.
Sheriff's detectives enlisted the help of Goodwill, which had sold the Bible online, and tracked it to Louisiana and then to Georgia. But the couple who had bought it wouldn't send it back without recouping the $405 they had paid for it.
The sheriff's office doesn't buy back stolen goods. So the Union County police union stepped up and covered the cost.
"This was no stolen television," said detective Mike Justice, who worked on the case and is president of the Union County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 171. "It's a family heirloom, and we believed it was important to get it back."
On Saturday night, the treasured book was carried down the aisle and presented to Shier during the police lodge's annual benefit concert at a high school auditorium.
Shier's family ended up donating enough money to repay the police union.