When burglars broke in and stole a central Ohio man’s safe, he not only felt violated, but emotionally crushed. Inside that safe was his most prized possession—a 300-year-old family Bible.
The Bible, written in German Gothic script and containing the handwritten dates of births, deaths, and marriages for seven generations of Tim Shier’s family, disappeared in the Marysville, Ohio, burglary in December 2011, never to be seen again—or so Shier thought.
But thanks to a sharp-eyed family member, local deputies, Goodwill, and a bit of divine intervention, the treasured heirloom is back in Shier’s hands.
He called it an answer to his prayers.
“Our family can’t put a price on that Bible,” Shier told The Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday. “History can never be replaced.”
It all began when police arrested four men for the burglary. A judge offered to give one of the defendants some leniency if he could find the Bible. But the man came up empty-handed, saying that he thought it had been dropped in some kind of bin.
All hope seemed lost until just a few weeks ago when one of Shier’s cousins saw a reference to an old German Bible on the genealogy website ancestry.com. She called Shier, who then phoned the sheriff’s office in Union County, where he lives.
Going over and above their call of duty, sheriff’s detectives enlisted the help of Goodwill—which had ended up with the Bible and then sold it online—and tracked the Bible to Louisiana and then to Georgia. But the couple who bought it wouldn’t send it back without recouping the $405 they’d paid.
The sheriff’s office doesn’t buy back stolen goods, so the Union County police union, realizing the sentimental value of the item, offered to foot the bill.
“This was no stolen television,” said detective Mike Justice, who worked on the case. “It’s a family heirloom, and we believed it was important to get it back.”
On Saturday night, the treasured book was carried down the aisle and presented to Shier during the police lodge’s annual benefit concert.
Shier’s family ended up donating enough money to repay the police union.