The case of the missing hearse with body inside the coffin still loaded in the back ended in a freeway car chase and crash on a busy Los Angeles freeway, police said.
A black Lincoln Navigator stolen Wednesday from outside a church near Pasadena was recovered Thursday morning after a good Samaritan spotted the vehicle, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
The casket – with the body undisturbed – was also recovered from the scene after law enforcement followed the stolen vehicle onto the 110 Freeway. The chase ended in a crash that closed the busy highway during morning commute.
James Juarez, 25, was taken into custody and booked on suspicion of grand theft auto, police said.
Police had pleaded with the suspect hours before to return the hearse after it was taken from outside St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church in East Pasadena.
"Out of all the bad decisions you have made, at least make one good one & bring back the deceased person & casket inside the Navigator," the sheriff's department said in a tweet.
KCBS-TV reported that the robbery occurred as a funeral for a different person was going on inside the church. A mortician was transporting two bodies in the hearse, and the suspects stole the vehicle as the mortician was inside the church with one of the bodies, the TV station reported.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department thanked the person who called law enforcement after spotting the hearse and followed it.
"We also want to send condolences to the family members of the deceased person, who had to deal with this tragedy," the department tweeted.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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