JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after police asked for help to find a stolen van that had been transporting a body, someone spotted the van abandoned at an Advance Auto Parts in Arlington and called in a tip, police said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Monday afternoon issued a Be On The Lookout for a silver 2006 Honda Odyssey van with Florida tag number NIS5N.
Around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, officers were seen surrounding a van matching that description at an auto parts store at Fort Caroline and Merrill roads. A JSO spokesperson later posted a tweet saying that a citizen saw the van and called it in.
"Working together makes a difference," the tweet said.
Police confirmed the body of 50-year-old Stephen McAllister was still inside the van.
Police said McAllister's body was picked up from UF Health on Monday, and the driver left the van running with the body inside while he went inside Affordable Cremation Solutions to pick up paperwork.
The business is on Arlington Expressway near the Regency Square Mall.
Moments later, the driver came out to see a thief driving off in the van.
McAllister's sister, Stephanie Hobbs, said she was already grieving the loss of her brother when the bizarre turn of events made the situation much worse.
"The initial shock of the gentleman that called to tell me what had happened -- I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. It just sounded like a nightmare," Hobbs said.
She said online posts from the public only added insult to injury.
"You should see the comments, what people are saying. You know, people that you know have no heart, were raised improperly. Comments about 'Weekend at Bernie’s.' It’s just disgusting," Hobbs said.
A native of Panama City, McAllister had come to Jacksonville for a long-term rehab program, Hobbs said.
She said he had one teenage son and wanted to get his life back on track.
She said complications from diabetes put her brother in the hospital and eventually led to his death earlier this month.
After that and what happened this week, she just wants him back with his family.
"We just want to get him home and have our service and lay him to rest where he needs to be," Hobbs said through tears.
Hobbs said she wants the public to know her brother was more than a body inside a stolen van.
"I don’t want the people of Jacksonville -- or anyone, for that matter -- to think that he was someone who was not loved," Hobbs said.