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Thieves lift air she uses to garden

Gladys Pearson loves to garden, but now she's stuck indoors, thanks to whoever stole the 92-year-old woman's oxygen bottle Monday.

Ms. Pearson kept the green bottle on the porch of her Kemple Estates home so she could wheel it around while tending to her impatiens and kale in the front yard. But it wasn't there Monday, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report.

"My mother went outside to use her oxygen and it was gone," said daughter Sharon Morrell.

Ms. Pearson suffers from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which means her obstructed airways are damaged.

The theft hasn't endangered her health, though. For indoor-use, she has an oxygen concentrator, a low-cost device that separates oxygen from air.

But that won't help her tend to her garden. She has a small indoor oxygen bottle, but it's too heavy for her to carry outside.

Which is why Ms. Pearson, who winters in Zephyrhills from Deckerville, Mich., isn't happy about it.

"She didn't get too excited," Morrell said, "she was just a little upset."

Her 70-year-old daughter got mad for her. "First of all, I thought maybe it was some kids pulling a prank, but I don't know," Morrell said.

The stolen bottle was a rental, the tank and gauge and holder valued at $400. Morrell doesn't know what the rental company is going to do about its loss. Ms. Pearson was unable to give authorities a serial number.

The Sheriff's Office says it's easier to recover stolen items if the owners keep track of the serial numbers. As for suspects, Morrell didn't have any.

"I told them I didn't know who would do such a thing."

Jamal Thalji covers east Pasco crime. He can be reached at (352) 521-6518 or toll free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6518. His e-mail address is thalji@sppimes.com.

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