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Dad and 10-year-old son in Kansas City choose honesty over ‘finders-keepers’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 10-year-old boy finds $10,000 in a hotel room. He and his father turn the cash over to the police. The story is featured on the front page of the Kansas City Star, it’s covered by all four local television news stations and then the tale is picked up nationally.

Is honesty so rare these days it makes headlines?

Money, money, money! (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Money, money, money! (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Tyler Schaefer, a Cub Scout and fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, likes to look for treasures, his dad, Cody Schaefer, told the Kansas City Star. While they were staying at the Hilton Kansas City Airport hotel Saturday, the youngster began looking in all of the drawers — and discovered a cache of neatly stacked bills, amounting to $10,000.

Schaefer, a truck driver and mechanic in South Dakota, admitted to the Star, “We didn’t know what to do at first.” He and his son talked about where the money might have come from. (Seems most likely that it’s some sort of ill-gotten booty…drug money or prostitution earnings, maybe?) But in the end, Schaefer told his son they should contact the police.

Two off-duty police officers, working as security guards at the hotel, turned the cash over to Sgt. Randy Francis of the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department’s Property and Evidence Department.

What happens to the money now? Tough to say. It’s possible the $10,000 could go to the Schaefers eventually, if no one claims it. But police told Kansas City’s Fox 4 News Schaefer and his son would have to first file a motion in court. Sgt. Francis said it’s not even easy for the rightful owner to reclaim the property.

A scholarly paper examining Missouri law on the subject discusses how property may be considered “lost” or “mislaid” and it makes a difference for “finders” whether property is discovered in a public or private location. Joseph Simeone, a professor emeritus at St. Louis University, wrote that the idea is to “award the articles to the one who would most likely protect it for the true owner, or at least be in the best position to do so.”

So forget “finders keepers.” In fact, hanging on to the cash is not only dishonest but also illegal, according to Missouri statutes, which say anyone finding lost property with a value of $10 or higher should turn it in. Ten grand might be a high enough amount to get slapped with a felony charge, Sgt. Francis said.

Regardless of who ends up with the money, the Schaefers’ decision to turn over the cash to the cops seems like the right thing to do. It’s what I hope I would do in a similar situation, tempting as it might be to quietly hang on to the loot. But judging from comments on various Web sites, not everyone agrees with me.

Several said they would have kept the money and at least one called Schaefer “an idiot” for his honesty. But the saddest commentary on our times came from the person who said, “I didn’t think people like this existed any more. Sorry that money would have been mine!!!!”

Then there were those who wondered just how well the room had been cleaned and speculated that the hotel housekeeping staff would start doing a more thorough job.

More heartening was the comment on the Washington Post Web site: “…someone raised the father to be an upstanding citizen and then did the same for his children. thank God there are still some honest people in this world. good job dad!!!”

I would have to agree. “Good job!”

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.


Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.



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Melinda Henneberger · May 30, 2013

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