Good News: Couple retrieves stolen U-Haul, unclear if all of the belongings are in place

A husband and wife in the process of moving to Jacksonville are looking for their personal belongings, after someone stole their U-Haul from a local hotel.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The search is over for a couple’s stolen U-Haul that was taken from a local hotel.

According to the family, a resident saw the U-Haul Friday afternoon next to their house and called the police.

The couple said they drove to Normandy Boulevard to retrieve their belongings and discovered that it was ransacked but a lot of their boxes were still inside.

The couple is hopeful, but won’t be able to verify their items until Monday.

The couple, relocating from Texas, was asking for help locating precious memories and priceless heirlooms inside the truck. They said thieves also stole about $12,000 worth of furniture.

“Everything that is supposed to be here is somewhere else,” Randall Honea said as he stood in his empty home, where the furniture was supposed to go.

This week, he drove from Dallas ahead of his wife with a rented 20-foot U-Haul truck. The home they purchased isn’t ready yet, so he booked a room at the Hampton Inn & Suites near Jacksonville International Airport.

Tracy and Randall Honea (Honea family)

He woke up Thursday morning and discovered the U-Haul was gone.

“My first reaction was that somebody at the hotel had towed the vehicle,” Honea told News4JAX. “So I went to the front counter, the front desk and asked, ‘Why did you tow my car?’ And the maintenance person standing beside me said, ‘Oh, it happened again.’”

While Honea believes they took about $12,000 worth of belongings, some were worth much more to his family. Pictures of his now 20-year-old daughter, her mother who passed away a few years ago, his wife’s son’s trophies, high school diplomas, and even the family pets’ ashes.

Ashes of family pets, Biscuit and Honey, were stolen along with other items inside a U-haul (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

He’s thankful he disconnected the car he was towing or that could have been gone too. He’s working to see if his insurance policy will pay for some of the valuables taken.

“More or less, it was more sentimental than anything. Things that you can’t replace,” he added.

As Jacksonville police investigate this crime, News4JAX learned U-Haul thefts are a problem across the country. News reports from coast-to-coast show examples of families losing almost everything when their trucks were stolen.

A Jacksonville police officer said he wasn’t aware of any large trends in the area but was checking with detectives.

A U-Haul spokesperson responded to News4JAX’s questions about the incident. He said the company takes these crimes seriously. It has a robust investigations unit that works with law enforcement. It works with customers who are victimized to get their belongings back -- and while we asked, the company didn’t tell us if it has track devices or other methods to find the stolen equipment.

“We sympathize with any customer who is a victim of theft,” U-Haul media and public relations manager Jeff Lockridge wrote in an e-mail. “When our customers are victimized by criminals, U-Haul is likewise victimized and shares in their frustration.

“For security and privacy reasons, we do not share information pertaining to our equipment tracking features,” he added. “The reason is simple: U-Haul has no desire to inform and embolden persons who intend to commit criminal acts and make them aware of methods and devices used to track equipment and assist law enforcement in their capture. U-Haul has assisted numerous customers in recovering their stolen belongings, and regularly works with law enforcement and prosecutors when our equipment falls victim to criminals.”

Honea is holding onto hope that someone will find his family’s stolen stuff -- and directly asked the thieves to leave behind what means the most to his loved ones.

“If they’re watching, ‘Leave what you don’t want, and I’ll come get it,’” he told the thieves.

Randall Honea is victim of a stolen U-Haul in Jacksonville (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

At the same time, he’s urging other people to not make the same mistakes he did. Park in a well-lit area, near cameras, and take the most valuable items out.

U-Haul’s Lockridge offered these tips to minimize the risk of being a victim of a crime while moving:

  • Always park in well-lit areas and within view of security cameras.
  • Do not leave keys in the truck where others can access them.
  • Lock doors to the truck cab and place secure locks on the rear cargo doors of your truck and/or trailer. (U-Haul sells these locks at all its stores.)
  • Place secure locks on the chains connecting your personal vehicle or moving truck to your trailer so the chains cannot be easily disconnected. (U-Haul sells these locks at all its stores.)
  • Back up your moving truck or trailer to a garage, wall or other solid barrier so that possessions cannot be unloaded without the equipment being moved.
  • Avoid leaving your moving truck or trailer parked or unattended in areas of town where crime is prevalent.
  • Avoid loading your possessions into your truck or trailer and leaving it parked and unattended at any time, particularly overnight, if this can be helped.
  • Do not lend the equipment to anyone who is not an authorized driver on the contract or provide the keys to someone you do not know.
  • Precisely Follow U-Haul instructions for equipment pick-up and return.

News4JAX visited the Hampton Inn & Suites airport location and requested to speak with the general manager. The supervisor was unavailable at the time. The parking lot had signs warning customers to park at their own risk.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.