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'I feel so broken': Mom asks for community's help after son's ashes are stolen

"Praying my little Jacob can come back to me."
After her home was robbed, Melissa Carter realized an urn holding her son's ashes was missing.
After her home was robbed, Melissa Carter realized an urn holding her son's ashes was missing. Melissa Carter
/ Source: TODAY

A heartbroken mother in Tacoma, Washington is hoping that goodness will somehow prevail after a home intruder stole something irreplaceable: a heart-shaped urn containing her son Jacob's ashes.

Melissa Carter told TODAY Parents that when she came home on December 29, she immediately realized something was wrong because the house was "freezing cold" and doors that she was sure she had closed were left open.

"My living room was still kind of chaotic from Christmas, but it appeared nothing had been touched," she said. "My computer was still here, my TV was still here, but I noticed that all the bedroom doors were open... I turned to my left and I saw that son's door is wide open, and I see his bedroom door completely smashed in. I immediately realized someone broke into my home."

Melissa Carter came home to find her home ransacked and her son's bedroom window smashed. Melissa Carter

Carter said that she immediately called the police, and stayed on the line with them while she searched her home to find anything missing. Tablets and other Christmas gifts remained untouched, but her 6-year-old son Mason's piggy bank had been stolen, and when she entered her bedroom, she saw that a wooden keepsake box had been opened.

"I immediately noticed that someone had gone through my dresser," she said. "The urn of my son, Jacob, was in there, along with all of my jewelry, and I noticed that the lid was off. All but a couple small necklaces were gone, and so I start looking around, trying to see if maybe someone realized it was an urn and dropped it, and I couldn't find it anywhere."

The embossed urn holds the remains of Carter's son, Jacob. Melissa Carter

Carter said that once she realized what had been stolen, she felt "panicked." Police arrived, but Carter and the Tacoma Police Department both told TODAY that there are no leads in the case. A forensics officer from the department came to the home on Monday, Dec. 30, but was only able to find one full fingerprint.

"I don't care about the jewelry. I don't care at all if I get any of that back. I just care about that urn."

According to police information officer Wendy Harrow, the investigation into the burglary is ongoing.

"We're hoping someone will find the urn, at least, and call it in," Harrow told TODAY. "It's obviously heartbreaking for this mother."

"I'm a single mom, and I'm doing my best to raise my son, but I'm also grieving the fact that somebody stole something so precious to me," Carter told TODAY. "It's been really hard trying to be really, really strong for my son, but inside, I feel so broken right now."

Since the burglary, Carter and her family have tried to raise awareness about the missing urn. On Dec. 29, Carter shared a post on her Facebook page asking that the thieves bring back "all I had of my baby." Carter's son, named Jacob, died while she was six months pregnant with him in 2012.

Carter's sister, Stephanie McCleary, shared a similar post to a local group, which has been shared more than 16,000 times. Commentators expressed their sadness and outrage about the theft of the urn, while promising to share the post in the hopes that the thieves might see it. A separate post on McCleary's personal page has amassed over a thousand shares and fifty comments.

Carter's mother, Jeanette Guddat Haggerty, said that the family is "devastated" but "appreciative of everyone's kindness."

"I am a realist and an optimist, but I will never give up hope that someday, Jacob's urn will find its way back to our family," Haggerty told TODAY. "We are a strong family, and there are so many wonderful people in this world that have reached out."

Carter and her son, Mason, have been struggling to feel at ease since the break-in. Melissa Carter

Carter said that despite the support, she and her son have been unsettled since the robbery.

"It's been hell," Carter said. "My son, Mason, he's been sleeping with me every night. I have a lot of family and friends and an amazing boyfriend who have been staying with me, because I've just been absolutely terrified... Any little noise that I hear, I jump, and I feel so uneasy being here, but I don't want to leave, because it's my home. It's been really, really hard."

She said that the most important thing to her is having the urn and ashes returned.

"I don't care about the jewelry," she said. "I don't even wear any of it anymore. I don't care at all if I get any of that back. I just care about that urn, and I don't even — if somebody could come forward, drop it off somewhere, something, so I can get that back — that's all I care about."