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'Porch pirate' incident in Waterford has happy ending

Waterford — A local woman who found a partially opened package last week near the intersection of Pepperbox, Braman and Niles Hill roads discovered it contained a Waterford Youth Basketball plaque and quickly decided it must have been left by a "porch pirate" who discarded the stolen box once he realized it had no value.

Concerned about touching the package due to the coronavirus outbreak, Braman Road resident Stephanie DeBiasi and son Scott, a sixth-grader at Clark Lane Middle School, pushed the partially crushed box off the pavement with their shoes and were finally able to reveal the plaque and an address associated with Jordan Commons condominiums.

She took a picture of the plaque Wednesday and asked for help on the Waterford CT Community Forum social media site on Facebook. Within hours, the package had been reclaimed by the family of A.J. Lowe, a student from Oswegatchie School whose family had since relocated from Jordan Commons. The Lowe family could not be reached for comment.

"The community response was awesome," DeBiasi said in a phone call last week. "Everyone wanted to help out."

One person on the forum, Oswegatchie art teacher Gretchen Lally, immediately recognized Lowe and sent an email directly to the family alerting them to the find. Later that day, they retrieved the package from the side of the road, thanks to a description of its whereabouts provided by DeBiasi.

DeBiasi, a Realtor for Berkshire Hathaway in Niantic currently working from home, said ever since schools shut down because of the pandemic, she and her 11-year-old only child and "best buddy" have been taking long walks to Harkness Memorial State Park. On Wednesday, she saw a flattened box by the side of the road but decided to leave it be. Only when they were on the return trip did they realize there was something inside the box.

"It was run over, but not unsealed," she said. "It was a little bit damp."

Since they didn't have gloves, the mother and son probed the box with their feet, revealing the plaque.

Scott said he has played competitive sports in the past and won trophies, so he immediately understood whoever the box was intended for would be missing it.

"I thought they'd probably be wanting it back," he said.

DeBiasi, who has lived in town for two decades, said she thinks the plaque was likely delivered to the address where the Lowes previously lived and then was stolen after being left outside. When the thieves opened the package in their vehicle and realized what was in it, they likely just threw it out onto the street, where it apparently had been run over at least once before the DeBiasis found it, she said.

DeBiasi said they were a little afraid to touch the box, but would have dragged it home that night had the owners not been found so quickly.

"This seemed like such a little thing to do to bring a smile to someone else, so why not?" she said. "It was amazing to get it to them."

l.howard@theday.com

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