San Antonio police were searching for someone who stole the body of a 25-year-old woman out of her coffin after her funeral and before it was set for cremation, police said on Friday.
"I have never in 22 years in law enforcement ever heard of anything like this," San Antonio police spokesman Sergeant Javier Salazar said, adding a motive for the crime was unknown.
Julie Mott of San Antonio died earlier this month of cystic fibrosis. A funeral for her was held last Saturday, which would have been her 26th birthday.
Her body was moved into a private area behind the funeral chapel where workers were to prepare it for cremation, which was set for Monday.
The funeral home was then closed for the day, and when employees returned on Sunday, they found the body was missing from the casket, police said.
"This was not a case of somebody thinking they were stealing an empty casket," Salazar said. "The body was the clear target."
Funeral home officials said there was no indication of a break-in and police suspect the person stole the body during business hours.
"I don't think many people would have the courage to do something like this," Salazar said.
Dick Tips, the owner of the funeral home, has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the return of the body and identification of the thief.
"This is a family business of five generations," Tips said. "I just am not believing that this is happening."
(Reporting by Jim Forysth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Beech)
Watch a report on the theft of Mott's body, as aired on KHOU-TV, below.