AUSTIN (KXAN) — Have you ever gotten an email with the subject line, “kidnapped grandparents”? That’s an email KXAN got to our ReportIt tip line this week, but the explanation in the body of the email was not exactly as the subject line announced.

We would use the word stolen. Let us explain.

Gail Hines had a series of what are called “gazing balls” in her front yard for a decade. Nobody tried to steal those yard decorations for years.

So when Garrett Hines’ grandparents, Gail’s parents, passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic, the family didn’t think twice about having the ashes put into custom gazing balls to be placed out front as a memorial to them.

Those gazing balls were made to be very specific to the personalities and lives of Gail’s parents. She said her father, in particular, loved to be outside.

It wasn’t until those gazing balls had immense sentimental value to the family that they said a thief came along and snagged them overnight Wednesday into Thursday. It was all caught on a Ring camera.

“I look over at my gazing ball garden, and it just seemed to be a little bit light,” Gail said. “Mom and dad are gone.”

Gazing balls, brand new on Amazon, run anywhere from $25-$60. Gail said by the time you buy the balls, sand and the stands, those can actually be anywhere from $100-$150. Regardless, for this family, the value of the gazing balls with the ashes inside are immeasurable.

Gail did not reach out to police — she didn’t believe they would be able to do anything about the stolen ashes or decorations — but she is asking if anyone sees the gazing balls, that they reach out. She has set up an email specifically for tips.

Gazing balls
What the gazing balls that were stolen look like (Courtesy Garrett Hines)

The family believes the thief showed up in an older, silver, sedan-style vehicle. Gail lives near Menchaca and Ben White. She hopes the thief will see the story and bring back the gazing balls back.

“There was no way for him to know that my two parents were in those gazing balls,” Gail said. “Please just bring back my parents.” 

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