“Here we are in the midst of a pandemic crisis, my best-est little bud almost died and my ‘97 XJ was stolen,” reader Mike Dyer wrote in a depressing email titled “My girlfriend’s puppy nearly died and then some @$$-hat stole my ‘97 XJ.” This is not right, and I, for one, won’t stand for it.
Before discussing Mike’s situation, I’ll point out that on March 24th, just one day after I received Mike’s email, someone named Anthony sent a message titled “Stolen Jeep Cherokee.” It linked to this post by Stockton, California resident Leah Walkup Thomas:
The post includes a screengrab of a note from Leah’s husband Matt. That note, which has been shared nearly 400 times as of this writing, describes the tragic events of the morning of March 24:
My Jeep was stolen from my driveway last night. If you see it please contact the police. Lots of water polo stickers on the back window. Faded paint on hood. License number. 3XQG663
Below the text is a photo of a beautiful red 1996 Jeep Cherokee:
Leah’s post describes how important the XJ is to her family, something that I understand fully. I once owned a 1996 Jeep Cherokee, and still miss it. From her post:
The jeep has been around with Matty longer than me. Brandon and Johnna were convinced when they were young that it was magic and could sprout wings and fly. All four of our kids have enjoyed driving it over the years. We feel violated as someone has stolen an icon. It was old. It was faded. Windows and door locks sometimes worked sometimes didn’t. But as a family we loved it. It was ours. Matty is in mourning. #pleasesendsierranevada
On Friday the 27th, Leah told me over Facebook Messenger that the Jeep had been found across town, and that Matt and her son were going to retrieve it. Matt wrote an update on his Facebook wall:
THE JEEP HAS BEEN FOUND!! Clarissa Francis is my new angel. Thank you for finding it and reporting it to the highway patrol. Thanks to Lexi and everyone else for sharing my post. The Facebook community came through!
In the comments, he wrote about the damage that the thief had imparted on the poor, innocent XJ:
It was found by Clarissa a former Larsson Student off I-5 between country club and Michigan. Battery was gone, stereo faceplate missing, keyless remote sensor ripped out of the headliner, and some rips in the seat. Still drives just fine. not bad considering other alternatives!!
Why anyone would steal the sensor for the keyless remote of a 1996 Jeep Cherokee is beyond me:
I’m also not sure I understand the advantage of taking a radio’s faceplate:
I’m also not sure how the seat could have gotten torn this badly:
Matt told me over messenger that he guesses that it’s possible that the person who damaged the Jeep wasn’t the same one as the person who stole it. I don’t know what to make of that; there are lots of unanswered questions, here, but regardless, this could have been worse, even if it’s still totally unacceptable.
Let’s get back to suburban St. Louis-based Jalopnik reader, Mike Dyer, a man whose Jeep was stolen just a day prior to the Thomas’ Jeep, also during a vulnerable time in Dyer’s life. On Sunday, Dyer’s girlfriend’s 11-month old boxer-doodle, whom Dyer he refers to as his “best-est little bud,” had to go into emergency surgery after a major intestinal problem. From Mike’s March 23 email:
Since he was little he has always loved riding in the ‘63 Beetle and my ‘97 Cherokee. Past week he hasn’t been doing so great, he has had little interest in food and has trouble getting comfortable. Aimee has been taking him to the vet who has been little help past couple of days. Last night (Sunday, March 22nd) Aimee took him outside and he threw up a lot of fluid and some blood. We rushed him to the closest 24 hour emergency vet in my Cherokee and because of the COVID-19 pandemic we had to let the nurse come outside and take him inside without us.
He went on:
Aimee and I waited in my Cherokee discussing a lot. After a couple of hours the vet called and said that he would have to be rushed into surgery to correct and remove some blockage in his digestive track. We drove the Cherokee home to her South City apartment at about midnight and just waited to hear the worst. At 2am we got the call that O’Reilly’s shape required more corrective surgery to cut and splice his intestines because a portion of it was effectively dead. We naturally went “all in” money wise to help save Aimee’s pup, he’s only 11 months old and we both knew his age gives him a good shot at a full recovery.
Then, in the middle of all of this tragedy and uncertainty, some jackass stole Mike’s beloved Cherokee. Mike describes how it went down in the email:
So while we both waited on couches inside her apartment (in various states of awake and asleep) just after 5:30am my girlfriend Aimee wakes me to say she thinks someone stole my Cherokee. No broken glass, no obvious sign of forced entry (doors locked, windows up, I always make sure). Luckily nothing of real value was in the Jeep, a couple gift cards in the glove box, an old pair of red Chuck Taylor high tops. Since this morning I have contacted the St. Louis Metro Police and my insurance company. Luckily I was smart enough to have “Ivy” on full coverage and while in the long run I may not be out a whole bunch of money, the thought of looking for another car right now scares me, especially because I know how lucky I got with “Ivy” and the odds of replacing here for the same money are slim to none.
...here we are in the midst of a pandemic crisis, my best-est little bud almost died and my ‘97 XJ was stolen...This is some John Wick level bullshit and I just can’t stand arrogant pricks, but especially during a crisis.
This Jeep, it’s worth mentioning, meant a lot to Mike because of its incredible condition and low price. He describes what makes his beloved “Ivy” special in his email, writing:
...back in October, literally the same week as [my] wrangler hit the 300K mark, my uncle told me about a ‘97 Cherokee Country that he just got with only 123,000 on the clock. I went and drove it that week and I couldn’t believe how well kept it was, damn near mint, no rust with just the minor tweaks like the headliner sagging and some minor stuff that I could repair at my leisure. I bought it for less than $4k, thanks to my Uncle and I named her “Ivy”. I’ve been repairing minor stuff ever since: fog light switch, rear wiper switch and just last Friday (March 20th) I replaced the rear transmission mount myself. She has been a phenomenal winter car I know she will not easily be replaceable.
A day after his initial email, Dyer sent me an update. He’d heard nothing about his XJ, but his dog O’Reilly was apparently now “stable with good pressure (no internal bleeding thank God),” and the vet was going to try to get him off his pain meds so he’d eat on his own. Dyer lamented that he couldn’t see his pup in-person due to COVID-19, concluding his email with a plea: “God take my XJ if you must, but don’t take my best-est buddy O’Reilly-pup!“
Five hours later, Mike sent a follow-up email with good news. His dog was back home and his Jeep had been recovered, and now sat at a tow yard, sad and alone, surrounded by wrecked and possibly stolen jalopies. “The only status update I have is that it looks like it has been hit in the front (err, but apparently it is drive-able). Gotta talk with my insurance now,” he said.
The following evening, Dyer told me what he saw upon visiting his incarcerated Jeep. “Damage appears minimal besides the typical stolen car BS,” he said. “I’m out some gift cards, hand sanitizer LOL and my damn red high top chuck taylors! Them ass holes.”
The deviants apparently entered the vehicle by busting the passenger’s side key lock:
And they started the car by breaking the ignition switch.
There were a few scrapes on the Jeep, including on the front bumper:
And there are some dings and scratches on the rear hatch, which is metal. (I mention this only because the Thomas’ red 1996 model, and all previous XJ model years, used fiberglass hatches. The XJ’s legendary 1997 update brought the steel rear door. Fun fact.)
The miscreants who stole Dyer’s Jeep apparently tried to remove the license plate, but were unable to take off the security torx bits. I find that hilarious:
Dyer started the Jeep with a screwdriver, put the vehicle into drive and reverse, and noted that mechanically, things seem okay. That’s great, though I have to say that’s pretty damn cold having to start your own car with a screwdriver.
Dyer says the thieves haven’t been caught yet, though here’s a quick look at the vehicle driving away from Dyer’s girlfriend’s house, courtesy of a neighbor’s security camera:
On the 26th, Mike told me he’d dropped his XJ off at a dealer and had the ignition switch replaced. He was off to the body shop to have the tailgate repainted. “Keep your fingers crossed for O’Reilly. Aimee and I are currently sitting in the parking lot of [Veterinary Specialty Services] to have him looked at to make sure there isn’t an infection from the surgery,” he finished. “His vet saw him today had some concerns. I’ll keep you posted on both fronts.”
This morning, Mike confirmed that the emergency vet had declared that O’Reilly was fine. “He has started to act more like himself a little every day. We know now that’s he’s on the road for a full recovery.”
That’s great news.
I realize these are just two random thefts that landed in my inbox, but two XJs in 24 hours? This needs to stop! I get that thieves don’t care about what their victims are going through—a pandemic, plus, in Dyer’s case, the emotional turmoil associated with seeing a pet in dire straits—but think of the poor XJs!
I’ve never received an email from a Nissan Versa owner whose car had been pilfered. Chances are, they see the loss as a minor inconvenience akin to buying AAA batteries at the store and then getting home to realize that their remote takes AAs. Plus, frankly, there’s a very good chance the thief will just return it. But an XJ is different. As the current owner of three XJs, and someone who’s owned five in his lifetime, I know all about the XJ’s ability to capture its owner’s heart. To lose an XJ is too much for a human heart to bear.
So, lay off, “ass holes.”