What would you do if you found a thousand dollars worth of treasure in your backyard? Would you keep it and spend it on yourself? Or would you try to track down the original owner in order to return it?
When Maria and Matthew Colonna-Emanuel moved into their compound in Staten Island, New York a couple years ago, the assumed that the rusty box left sitting in their backyard at the base of the trees was just an old electrical box. They weren’t in any hurry to get rid of it, so they let left it there for four years.
It wasn’t until wild deer had started eating the foliage, that something was done with the box. According to Matthew, both he and his crew were clearing the destroyed foliage that the box had to be moved. That prompted the couple to actually look inside, and what they found shocked them.
Matthew spoke to Jenna DeAngelis from CBS, and described the contents of the box as beyond stunning.
He said, “Hundreds (dollar bills) and jewelry—diamonds, engagement rings, jade. It was stunning. I just kept picking up more hundreds and more hundreds. There were several thousands of dollars in the safe. All the notes were smelly, moldy, soaking wet and stuck together from years of being exposed to rain.”
Along with the treasure, the Colonna-Emanuels also found a note that had the address of one of their neighbors tucked inside the box. The couple didn’t wait and immediately headed over to the neighbor’s house to make inquiries.
“First, I knocked on the door and I asked them if they were ever robbed and they said they had been,” Matthew stated.
The New York Police Department then confirmed the legitimacy of the neighbor’s claim over the safe.
According to a police report, the neighbors of the Colonna-Emanuels had reported a burglary at their home a few days prior to New Year’s 2011. The only item stolen from the home was the safe. Inside, it had contained cash, jewelry, and other valuables that in total was worth $52,000.
“The cops told her, ‘You’ll never see your stuff again,’” said Maria Colonna-Emanuel about the neighbor’s items.
The neighbors spent 8 years not knowing the whereabouts of their savings. That couldn’t have been easy, so it was natural that they couldn’t contain their joy at seeing their long-lost treasures returned. They’re eternally grateful to the Colonna-Emanuels. According to Matthew, his female neighbor was actually shaking when her safe was returned. In order to protect their identity, the neighbors have chosen to withhold their names and not give a statement.
Meanwhile, the Colonna-Emanuels have now placed a cute, ceramic elephant at the base of the trees where the safe used to be. It stands as a reminder of the treasure they found, plus the good deed they did in returning it.
There have been a lot of people who believe the couple made a mistake in returning the items. However, the couple doesn’t second guess their decision for a second – they believe it was the right thing to do.
“A couple of people asked us, ‘Why did you return it?’ It wasn’t even a question. It wasn’t ours,” Maria said.
You would think that the neighbors would have offered them a reward for actually giving back their items, but when asked about that, Matthew simply said, “Not yet. I guess the reward is karma. Good karma.”
Personally, I’d prefer cash.