Last month, when Patrick Bray parked his 2003 Ford F-350 truck, he assumed it would be there when he came back. He had locked all the doors, kept his keys on him, all the precautions.
And yet suddenly, the truck was gone.
“It almost feels like it’s a joke at first, you know,” Bray told ABC15. “I’m pretty sure I parked right there.”
The Phoenix, Arizona, man knew it was probably a lost cause. He reported the missing vehicle to the police, but otherwise there was nothing he could do.
“I was done,” Bray said. “Checked out. It’s gone.”
Bray had no idea how he’d track the truck down. He had no leads to go off of, no information of its whereabouts.
Until fate intervened.
A few weeks after his truck went missing, Bray was surprised when he received an unexpected piece of mail: a photo traffic ticket.
These tickets are generated by hidden roadside cameras, snapping an unsuspecting driver running a red light or speeding. The photo captures the driver’s face and license plate number, and the ticket and photo are mailed to the registered address.
Most drivers dread getting these tickets in the mail—but for Bray, it was a relief.
He wasn’t the one driving that truck.
“I actually smiled when I saw it because I haven’t gotten flashed by one in awhile,” Bray told ABC15.
Bray opened the envelope. He dug up the photo—and confirmed, it was definitely not him.
But it also wasn’t the typical car jacker he was expecting. Instead, to his surprise, it was a put-together woman.
“I open it up and that is definitely not me.”
Bray isn’t putting out a wanted ad for the woman. He’s giving her the benefit of the doubt—she could easily be a victim in all this, too, an unwitting buyer of a stolen vehicle.
“To me, it’s somebody who’s running late to work and doesn’t know it’s stolen,” Bray told ABC15.
“Let’s say she’s a single mom with three kids. I don’t want to cause any trouble for any human beings.”
Instead, Bray came up with a plan. From the ticket, he got the intersection where the traffic violation occurred. So now, he’s taking things into his own hands: he’s getting up early in the morning, waiting for the truck to pass again. He hopes he can track down the car thief, and possibly help the female driver if she’s been ripped off.
It seems like a crazy plan—but at least he’s no longer giving up on finding his truck and bringing the criminal to justice. Renewed hope, all thanks to a very welcome parking ticket.