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Police, neighbors call crime disturbing

ATTLEBORO - Someone stole a wheelchair belonging to a 4-year-old handicapped child outside her home on Merritt Place, in what residents and police are calling one of the more disturbing crimes to occur recently in the city.

Ranessa Nesbitt says her daughter Aaliyah's wheelchair was stolen from outside her apartment at 3 Merritt Place sometime between 11 p.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. Wednesday.

"I have no idea who would do something like that, especially if they knew it belonged to a handicapped child. It's never happened on this street before, and all of a sudden it happens," said Nesbitt, who moved to the apartment in July with her boyfriend Angel Osorio.

The couple also has a 5-month-old daughter, Deziray.

"I couldn't believe it, myself," Osorio said. "I'm kind of shocked. I was furious at first. It was my daughter's wheelchair. I just want it to be returned."

Aaliyah was born with a disability similar to cerebral palsy, and can't walk, talk or sit up on her own. She needs care around the clock, Nesbitt said.

The wheelchair helps Aaliyah to sit up and the couple is now waiting to get another one on loan from Boston Children's Hospital until insurance will approve a new one.

Police believe the wheelchair, valued at $2,000, was stolen because it is made of titanium, a valuable metal.

"It's gut wrenching to think that someone would steal a disabled child's wheelchair, possibly for their next high," said Attleboro Detective Sgt. Arthur Brillon, who is investigating the crime.

The wheelchair is about the size of a baby stroller, has a blue tubular frame with blue arm rests, a blue seat and a polka dot back pad. The brand name of the wheelchair is National Seating and Mobility.

Merritt Place is off North Main Street, near St. John the Evangelist Church. The area is heavily populated and police suspect there might have been witnesses to the theft.

The police department is offering a $250 reward for information leading to the recovery of the wheelchair, or information leading to the identity of the thief.

"Hopefully they'll find the person who took it, and they will have the chair, and it's not tampered with or anything," Nesbitt said.

The crime has angered the couple's neighbors.

"It's a scumbag that stole from a handicapped child," said neighbor Michael Johnson. "They didn't steal it from the parents. They stole from a handicapped child."

If anyone has any information on the crime, they are urged to call detectives at 508-222-1259.

http://www.thesunchronicle.com/articles/2008/09/06/news/3627015.txt
 
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