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After helpful mom accidentally steals car, rightful owner is found

April 16, 2014 at 5:21 PM ET

Nekisia Davis and her mom
Courtesy Nekisia Davis
Nekisia Davis, left, pictured with her mom, Cheryl Thorpe, and dog Ruby Jean.

When it comes to helping out their kids, moms have only the best intentions. 

Sometimes, though, things don't go off quite as planned. Take, for instance, the case of Brooklyn’s Nekisia Davis. Davis, 36, had planned a weekend trip to Miami with friends earlier this month, and flew her mom into town to care for her dog while she was going to be away. She also figured her mom, Cheryl Thorpe, could move her car and her friends' cars, so they wouldn’t get ticketed as a result of New York’s oft-confusing so-called “alternate-side parking” regulations, which dictate which side of the street parking is allowed on a given day.

“I gave her very harried instructions about the cars and their locations and when to move them, thinking, 'What could possibly go wrong?'” Davis, the founder of artisanal granola company Early Bird Foods & Co, told TODAY.com. And she assumed all was going to plan when she received a text from mom at the end of the weekend, communicating that the cars had all been successfully moved.

When the gang returned to town Monday night, they discovered exactly what could possibly go wrong.

"We returned very late at night and Deanna couldn't find her car but was too tired to deal with it so just slept on my sofa,” Davis told TODAY.com. But the next morning, her friend still couldn’t locate the car. 

Nekisia Davis and her friends in Miami.
Courtesy Nekisia Davis
Nekisia Davis, left, and her friends party in Miami.

When Nekisia’s mom pointed out the vehicle she’d moved using Deanna’s keys — they all realized the major mixup. It appeared the keys had successfully operated another vehicle, and it was a stranger's car that she’d moved instead of Deanna's.

Thorpe had accidentally stolen a car.

"Deanna must have the master key to the Honda Universe, because her keys opened and drove a different green Honda, different year," Davis explained. Plus, Thorpe had used the logic that Deanna wears a lot of necklaces, and the car she'd moved had necklaces draped around the mirror.

The group reported the incident to the NYPD immediately upon realizing what had happened, but initially, according to Davis, the officers didn’t seem to believe the far-fetched tale.

In search of the car’s rightful owner, Davis took to the streets, posting fliers around town with a photo of the car, her contact info and a rather unexpected message: "Is this your car or do you know whose it is? Looking for the owner who potentially wears a lot of necklaces and enjoys San Pellegrino sodas. I didn't steal your car but I think my mom may have. It's a long story. I'll explain, but your car is safe and sound."

Thanks to a story about the mixup in New York magazine Wednesday morning, Davis managed to connect with the car's rightful owner, Emilee Hickert — and there were absolutely no hard feelings.

In fact, just after picking up her car on Wednesday, Hickert told TODAY.com she experienced nothing but relief when she learned the vehicle was safe and sound — even though she'd had to pay $190 to get it out of impound. According to a law enforcement source not authorized to make official comment, officers followed protocol after locating a vehicle that had been reported stolen, by towing the car to a secure facility and attempting to make contact with its owner. Now that the car has been reunited with its owner, the case is officially closed.

"It was a small price to pay to get my car back," she said. "I thought it was gone. Everyone was telling me the only reason to steal a ’93 would be parts. So it was a lot of shock and disbelief, but this is the best thing that I could ever hope for." 

Honda spokesperson Chris Naughton told TODAY.com that the issue of one Honda key operating another car is “a needle-in-a-haystack scenario, highly unlikely but possible,” with a 22-year-old car such as Hickert’s. "Over two decades ago, keys were essentially mechanical, they were cut keys. That was the technology at the time, and it was not a problem that was unique to one automaker. It just wasn’t possible for the number of variations to be in the millions,” he explained, adding that Honda rolled out a new chip-based key system in 1998 that increased the code variables into the millions. “It's standard now — anti-theft technology has come a long way,” he said.

Davis told TODAY.com that such snafus are not typical with her mom, whom Davis described as a “pretty pulled-together person.” But New York’s confusing laws can confound even the most capable out-of-towner. "I think the whole alternate-side parking thing is a concept that's new to a lot of non-New Yorkers,” she said.

And the incident has definitely not cooled Davis’ enthusiasm for asking mom for help in the future. In fact, she said, “Yes, I will ask her for favors like this again — especially if such an amazing story comes out of it!"

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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