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Grieving family loses son, then becomes victim of theft

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - What kind of people could steal from a family whose son was fatally injured in a horrible fall?

Mac and Janice McGarity of Henrico County would like to know after twice being victimized since their oldest son accidentally fell from the Lee Bridge some 45 feet to the walkway below on the night of Nov. 17.

The McGaritys raced to VCU Medical Center after getting a frantic call from a friend who was with their son.

“I knew it was bad when we weren’t part of the general waiting room population,” Mac McGarity said. “When we get whisked back past three security doors into a little private bereavement room . . . and the first person who meets me is the chaplain, it’s not good.”

It wasn’t good. Their 18-year-old son, Reid McGarity, died in the trauma room at VCU Medical Center. After agonizing over what to do, this couple made the tough decision to allow their younger sons to say goodbye to Reid.

“We’re ready to go,” Janice McGarity recalled. “We all went one more time down to the room where Reid was and said our goodbyes. And then when we came back into the room to gather up all of our stuff, Mac goes, “where is my phone?’ I’m like, it’s around here somewhere, and all of the sudden (younger son) Trey goes, ‘My Nintendo is gone, too.’”

Instead of going home, they had to stay and fill out a police report, feeling violated.

“I’m not only sad beyond belief and devastated,” Mac McGarity said, “I’m angry.”

“It’s one thing to take a phone laying there,” his wife added, “but knowing you’re in a trauma unit” in a room for family members who are facing the worst kind of catastrophe.

Reid’s memorial service was at Trinity United Methodist Church on Forest Avenue last Wednesday.

Janice left her purse in private parlor beside the sanctuary during the service.

So did another young woman.

When the service was over, the young woman saw her purse was gone and immediately called police.

Janice McGarity said, “her’s was an IPhone – she was very quick to go online and use the find-my-phone app and they were already down in (the) Gilpin Court “ housing project in Richmond.

Janice’s purse was also taken. When she had her phone tracked, it, too, was located somewhere in that same area in Gilpin Court. The app only gave a general street location, not the exact spot.

And there they were, basically phoneless, when all those in their world were reaching out to them.

Police can obtain warrants to pinpoint locations of phones associated with crimes, but a larceny like this one is just too common. There was difficulty tracking Mac’s phone, a VCU police source said.

“I understand it a stolen cell phone that’s not associated with a major crime, so the pinging technology takes manpower, hours,” Mac McGarity said. “There wasn’t a murder involved with this phone . . . in the grand scheme of things, I get it.”

Mac believes the criminals read their son’s obituary and slipped into the church, looking for belongings to steal. A neighbor had volunteered to watch their home while they were at the service, warning of opportunistic criminals.

But they never thought a church would be violated like that.

Janice McGarity said she doesn’t want to think the worst of people, “but there are people out there who are totally going to take advantage of your worst situation in life.”

They also want to challenge cell phone manufacturers and carriers to use technology to make it harder for stolen phones to be resold.

Despite being twice victimized, the McGaritys say the good has outweighed the bad since their beloved son died. The next night 300 people filled their yard for an impromptu candlelight vigil. Their home has been filled by so many of their son’s friends.

“We’ve been so surrounded and blessed,” Mac McGarity said, “by people who love us and support us.”