Florida woman accidentally steals PT Cruiser

OKEECHOBEE — A local woman was shopping at Publix on Wednesday and reportedly left the store parking lot in the wrong PT Cruiser afterward.

On Thursday, she realized her mistake and attempted to set things right without going to jail.

Sara Yates, received an unusual phone call from a total stranger on Thursday as she went about her every day chores. “It was just a normal day until the phone rang,” Mrs. Yates laughed. The woman on the other end of the line asked her if she was the lady who made the “Button Heads.” Mrs. Yates said, “I got all excited. I thought someone was interested in my Button Heads. Boy, was I wrong.”

Button Heads are crocheted mask extenders to protect ears. Rather than hook elastic to your ears, you hook it to the buttons on the crochet pieces.

The woman went on to tell Mrs. Yates that she found her contact information, and she needed her help.

The woman told Mrs. Yates, “You probably won’t believe this, but I went shopping at Publix, and when I left, I went out to the parking lot and found my car in the handicapped parking space where I left it. My key didn’t work right so I got my spare key, and it worked, and I went home. Then later, I realized it wasn’t my car. Now, I’m scared to call the police. I need my car back though.”

Mrs. Yates asked her why she was calling her and how she got her number, and the lady told her she found a little paper with her name on it in the glove compartment.

“Do you know the owner?” the woman asked Mrs. Yates.

“I don’t know who the owner is, but I will call Publix for you,” said Mrs. Yates. “The woman was so upset and really worried she would get in trouble but also wanted her own car back.”

Store employees verified that a PT Cruiser was stolen on Wednesday, June 10. They also confirmed a second PT Cruiser was sitting in a handicapped parking space at the time of the phone call on Thursday. The employee said she would call the sheriff’s office, and Mrs. Yates gave Publix the phone number and name the woman used when calling her.

One unusual note: The employee mentioned was that the stolen car was gold, and the one that was left behind was silver.

On Wednesday, at approximately 10:15 a.m. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Deputy Jose Garcia was dispatched to the laundromat in the Publix plaza in reference to a complaint of a stolen vehicle. When he arrived, the complainant told him she arrived at the laundromat around 9 a.m. and went inside to put her clothes in the washing machine. She remained inside talking to the manager for a little while and finally went outside at about 10 a.m. to find her car missing. There were no cameras in the vicinity, but a camera across the street showed the vehicle leave the lot and turn right on U.S. 441.

The following day just after noon, Deputy Garcia was again dispatched to Publix, this time in reference to a recovered stolen vehicle.

When he arrived, the Publix manager told him there was a PT Cruiser in the parking lot that had been there all night. She also told him a woman had called and claimed to have driven off in the wrong PT Cruiser the previous day.

When they ran the tag on the PT Cruiser in the parking lot, they were able to find the address of the woman it belonged to, and Deputy Garcia went to her home where he found the stolen vehicle.

The woman told him she went grocery shopping on Wednesday morning, and when she came out of the store, her car was not where she left it, so she searched all over until she finally found one that looked identical to hers. She got in and her key would not work, but she saw keys on the floorboard and assumed they were her spares. She picked them up and started the car and went home. Later, she realized it was not her car.

The car was returned to the owner, who declined to press charges.

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