Rio History: Who Dunnit?

By STEVE HATHCOCK
Special to the PRESS

Jeff Erkenbrack and a friend were in the process of demolishing a six inch block wall to make room for an expansion of Running Etc., a sporting goods store located in Virginia Beach when they found the first artifacts: a collection of vintage beer cans.  They continued jackhammering until another section of the wall fell and that was when Jeff spotted two women’s wallets jammed into the upper part of the wall.

Considering their age, the contents of the clutches were in absolutely pristine condition. A Social Security card was still white. Also preserved were a dozen photos in each, assorted cards and driver’s licenses, (none dated after 1964), but no money. Both wallets contained names though, so after consulting the phone book Erkenbrack began leaving messages on a number of answering machines. His efforts paid off and by the end of the day he had reached the owners of both wallets who were quite surprised at his find.

Dell Dean, owner of one of the wallets, worked as a secretary for an insurance company located upstairs in the building Erkenbrack was remodeling. She remembered how hurt she felt when her purse went missing from her desk back in 1963. Until that incident she had felt safe in that office, surrounded mostly by employees and the loss ate at her. After all, everyone is a suspect in these cases and oftentimes the wrong person is blamed.

Still, she laughed when Erkenbrack gave her the all-but-forgotten blue plaid wallet, thick with black-and-white photos, library and identification cards and even a 3-cent stamp. “I can’t thank you enough,” she said as she hugged him.

Rose Ann Moore worked as a secretary, too, only her office was located in a department store around the corner. She remembered stashing her leather wallet in the pocket of her winter coat which hung on a hook in her office, but a quick fingered thief managed to find it. She felt violated, too.

No one knows how the wallets ended up in the wall but both women remember that at the time, there was construction going on in the building. It would be anyone’s guess as to the culprits’ identity, so the thief remains at large, but Rose Ann sees God’s hand in getting back what she once thought was gone forever. ”It’s not worth much money” she told a reporter, “but it gives hope to people that they’ll have something returned to them that they lost,” she said.

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