DUNEDIN, Fla. - Detectives believe they know who's to blame for breaking into more than 100 Pinellas County storage units over the last few weeks, and they say a rare item cracked the case.
It's an antique music box that likely dates back to the late 1800's and weighs about 300 lbs.
Its monetary value may have been unknown to Noah Dutton and Carlton Strawderman, the two men detectives allege tried to sell it.
"A family heirloom," described the box's owner, Sheila, who asked that her last name not be released.
Tuesday, Sheila got a call from a local antique shop employee, who told her a man just offered to sell them a rare music box.
"That's what I was hoping for," Sheila said.
The item's description matched the same piece someone stole from Sheila's storage unit in Dunedin over the weekend. When she noticed it went missing, she called area pawn and antique stores, alerting them.
"I couldn't believe someone would take something of that caliber," she said.
But because of its caliber, the music box was easy to trace. Detectives say it lead them right to Dutton and Strawderman, and an apartment filled with other peoples' stuff, from 123 storage unit break-ins.
Sheila says the men tried to sell her music box for $3,500. Once it's refurbished next year, though, the piece will value at about $10,000.
Still, the value for Sheila's family goes far beyond money.
"My mother-in-law's father bought it for her mother back in the mid-30s," Sheila said. "It was an antique then."
Generations listened to the box, including Sheila's own kids.
"We were able to get not only a piece of our family heritage back, but there have been others who've had pieces returned to them because of my phone calls," Sheila said.
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