ST. PETERSBURG — On the second day of her new job, Karen Hadidi returned from work to find her Crescent Heights home a shambles.
A top and a skirt lay crumpled on her front doorstep. And why was the TV in the middle of the living room floor?
Hadidi, 42, had just returned to her first full-time job in 15 years — as a drama teacher at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. She thought her husband must have really struggled to get the three kids out the door that morning without her. Then she went into her own bedroom and saw her dresser drawers overturned.
They had been burglarized.
The thieves had been thorough: the Wii and PlayStation, all of her sapphire and diamond jewelry, her deceased father-in-law's coin collection, her kids' piggy banks. Her camera.
The pictures of the kids' first day of school were on there.
• • •
Hadidi made her first trip to a pawnshop with St. Petersburg police Detective Michael Egulf. They walked up to the door of Southern Pawn on U.S. 19 and pushed a button. Someone inside buzzed them in.
Pawnshops routinely provide police with lists of the items they purchase, including serial numbers. Hadidi's camera had turned up on one of those lists.
A man who was now a suspect had sold the camera to Southern Pawn for $55. He had also sold jewelry to another pawnshop, but it had been stolen from there before Hadidi could identify the jewelry.
Which left the camera. It was red, a Kodak. She wondered if the pictures of her kids were still on it.
"This is how this works," Egulf said. She could either buy back her camera from the pawnshop for $55. Or she could go to court to get it back.
The clerk held up the red camera. Hadidi knew it was hers.
But now she wasn't so sure she wanted it.
The detective said she had some time to think about it. Pawnshops are victims too, he said. Some return stolen items without charge; others do not.
Years ago, police would seize stolen property and return it to the rightful owner. But the law has changed. Most people end up buying back their property.
Hadidi felt like she was being victimized twice.
• • •
One day last week, Hadidi went back to Southern Pawn. She walked past a man in a Santa hat selling a weed eater, a man counting out a stack of bills on a counter and a man trying to sell a DVD player he held in a plastic bag.
Hadidi stood awkwardly at the counter. She pulled her pink and black beaded holiday sweater a little closer.
"I have to pick up my camera," she said to a young woman.
"Do you have a ticket number?"
"No, it was stolen."
"Do you have the suspect's name?"
Hadidi was getting annoyed. No, she did not have the suspect's name. All she knew was that police had a warrant out for his arrest. She gave the clerk her name.
The woman disappeared into another room.
Hadidi had discussed it with her husband, Loay. She had argued they were supporting an industry that profited from stolen property. He said there was no way they could replace the camera for less than $55. It was the least expensive option.
Practicality beat out principle.
The clerk was back.
"So that's going to be $55."
Hadidi sighed. Her stomach turned. But she said nothing, just handed over her credit card.
She picked up the camera, turned it in her hands. She realized that every time she used it, she would be reminded that someone had come into her house and rifled through her things.
She opened up the camera.
The memory card with the pictures of her kids was gone.
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Leonora LaPeter Anton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8640.