Detectives at the Coos County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon made a heartwarming discovery during a routine evidence audit on January 1 when they stumbled upon a cherished memento belonging to a local elderly resident and returned it to her.
The emotional find came while detectives sifted through over 10,000 pieces of evidence across two locations to ensure accurate record keeping and retrieval of evidence for trials and appeals.
During the audit, Detective Sergeant Aaron Whittenberg unexpectedly stumbled on a peculiar item — a leather-bound scrapbook with no associated case number.
The discovery of the scrapbook soon sparked curiosity among the detectives. After delving into its pages, they discovered a time capsule filled with memories and history.
The pages contained newspaper clippings, including one reporting the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as handwritten birthday cards.
Based on the dates found on the cards, it was estimated that the scrapbook was over 100 years old.
Rather than discarding the relic, Detective Sergeant Whittenberg sought help from the department’s public information officer Sergeant Adam Slater to track down the scrapbook’s rightful owner.
Sergeant Slater then turned to Facebook where he mentioned two names found within the scrapbook — “Mabel” and “Rutten” — as well as the location where some of the cards had been sent, which was in Florida. The post aimed to reunite the scrapbook with its owner.
The Facebook post caught the attention of Windy Gardiner, who worked at the Myrtle Point Care Center. She recognized the names mentioned in the post and remembered reading about Doretta Rutten, a 91-year-old resident at the center, whose mother-in-law was named Mabel.
Gardiner approached Rutten and confirmed the information. It turned out that Rutten’s late husband, Bill, was born and raised in Florida before moving to Coos Bay, where he met Doretta in the early 1960s.
Gardiner immediately contacted the sheriff’s office and made arrangements for the scrapbook to be delivered to Doretta Rutten.
Sheriff Gabe Fabrizio then personally delivered the cherished scrapbook to Rutten, acknowledging the positive impact such acts of kindness can have in their line of work.
“Most of us get into this job to help people and be a positive influence,” he told The Oregonian. “When you get a chance to do that, it’s a reminder of why we do this.”
Upon receiving the scrapbook, Rutten was deeply moved. As she flipped through the pages, she came across newspaper stories documenting the end of World War II and recognized greeting cards. Rutten identified a photo of a young woman in a wedding dress as her husband’s aunt.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Rutten shed tears of joy. Sheriff Fabrizio also found himself touched by the experience and admitted to being teary-eyed.
“It was definitely pretty emotional,” Fabrizio said. “I’ll be honest, I teared up a bit, too. It was a great bright spot in some otherwise troubling times.”
Reflecting on the origin of the scrapbook, Rutten’s daughter informed the detectives that their home had been burglarized over 20 years ago, leading them to speculate that the scrapbook had been taken during the break-in.
Sheriff Fabrizio believed that at some point, deputies had come across the scrapbook in connection with another case. Not knowing its origin, they stored it in the evidence room, where it remained forgotten until the recent audit.
With the scrapbook back in her possession, Rutten expressed her intention to pass it down to her youngest son after her passing. For now, she keeps it in her room, cherishing the memories and feeling closer to her beloved late husband.
“It was part of Bill. Having it with me brings Bill back to me,” she said. “It’s hard to explain what it was like to hold that book and touch those cards. I know my husband would be tickled by all this.”