Thief steals purse from grieving mother

Published On: Aug 30 2012 10:47:40 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 31 2012 07:15:24 AM EDT

A thief steals from a grieving mother while she visited her daughter's roadside memorial.

MELBOURNE, Fla. -

A thief stole final memories from a grieving mother while she was at her daughter's roadside vigil in Brevard County, according to police.

Tonjia Mitchell told Melbourne police she had gone to the scene of her daughter's weekend crash to build a vigil when someone reached inside her unlocked car and stole her purse and a purse that had belonged to her daughter. Minutes later, the woman's credits cards were used at an area Walmart and Target, police said.

On Thursday, as mourners paid respects at the vigil located near the intersection of Dairy Road and Range Road in south Melbourne, they were shocked by news that someone could victimize a grieving mother.

"To hurt someone whenever they're hurting even more, knowing what she was here for? No respect," said Heather Collins as she laid down flowers just after going to her friends visitation.

Collins said Beth Bryant's mother is beside herself, wanting her daughter's few possessions that were stolen by a thief.

"She's very upset about it. She just wants Beth's things back," said Collins.

Bryant, 26, died after a two-car crash sent the car she was in off the road and into some bushes, said Collins, who remembered her friend by saying, "She was very loving. She always had a smile on her face. She's going to be missed by a lot of people."

Collins described the thief as "disgusting."

Police released surveillance video of a man who they said used the stolen credit cards at a Walmart and Target minutes after the theft. He is seen buying a few phone cards and an iPad before walking to the parking lot and getting into a waiting car.

Police think the man t is part of a crime group from South Florida called "Felony Lane," which normally steals credit cards and uses them quickly before the victim realizes.

"To have the last things of hers to remember her by taken, it's just horrible," said Mitchell's neighbor, Jacqueline Rushing.

According to an obituary, Bryant was Mitchell's last living child.

Anyone with information about the theft is urged to call Melbourne police at 321-409-2259.

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