RUSKIN, Fla. - A Hillsborough County deputy and his wife helped bring back a dying man's beloved blue boat.
Jack Peek's boat was stolen on December 31.
The 73-year-old has terminal cancer and expected to live only a few more months. Peek, who loves to fish, planned on living out his final days on his boat.
"I wanted to cry," explained Peek. "That's all I got to live for now."
Peek thought he would never see his boat again. He called 911 and Hillsborough County Deputy Robert Howard came out to Peek's Ruskin home to take a report.
"I took it to heart, his story," said Howard.
Howard was heartbroken and couldn't stop thinking about the devastating theft. He went home and even told his wife about it. He had no idea what his wife was going to do next. She posted the description of the missing boat on Facebook.
"It was shared approximately 152 times," Howard recalled.
In less than 24 hours, Howard's wife received a Facebook message. It was a tip telling her where the boat could be located.
Howard wasted no time and took off to the area and found the boat and later the motor.
David Michael Smolen, 23, was arrested at his mother's house at 1641 36th St. SE in Ruskinand charged with grand theft. Howard said Smolen admitted to stealing the boat.
Howard personally drove Peek's boat back to his home that day. Today, he brought back Peek's motor.
"You get paid to a do a job but to see the look on his face just made all the difference. It made it worth it," Howard added while his eyes welled up with tears.
Peek's boat was stripped. The carpeting was gone and the only thing that was not taken was the level to lower the anchor. Still, Peek was just happy to see his boat.
"I can't describe how tickled I am to get it back," Peek explained.
Peek plans to put seats back into his boat and to replace the stickers.
His tackle box was also stolen but not recovered. So, Howard and his wife collected $200 and bought Peek a new tackle box and lures.
Howard and Peek consider each other pals now and have plans to go fishing together.
Howard's wife was not available to comment.
Smolen is being held on $2,000 bond and will face a judge Wednesday morning.
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Plenty of sunshine with warm temps and humid conditions. Only a 20% chance for an afternoon shower or storm.