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Authorities recover stolen funeral home van with body inside, arrest two people

The man and woman stole the van when it was left running at a gas station, St. Louis County, Missouri, police said.

Two people were arrested Friday morning after a St. Louis-area funeral home van with a body inside was stolen from a gas station a day earlier, police said.

"The vehicle has been recovered and two individuals taken into custody," the St. Louis County Police Department said in a tweet shortly after 11 a.m. local time. "Most importantly, the body being conveyed in the back of the vehicle has also been recovered. Together, we were able to get her back to her family."

NBC affiliate KSDK reported the suspects were arrested about 10 a.m. in Festus, about 34 miles south St. Louis.

According to police, a man and a woman stole the van just before 10:30 a.m. Thursday after it was left running outside a QuikTrip gas station. Authorities had released photos of the suspects and the van, asking for assistance.

In a tweet Friday, police thanked the public for their help.

It's not clear what charges the man and woman face. Their names have not been released.

The van belongs to William C. Harris funeral home.

Prior to the arrests, the funeral home's director had pleaded for the body to be returned.

“I’m just asking them, they can have the van, just return the loved one. I need to have closure for the family,” William C. Harris Jr. said.

A manager at the funeral home told KSDK that the driver was regretful.

The area had temperatures in the teens at the time police said the van was taken, according to National Weather Service observations.

Most of Missouri and large parts of the Plains and Upper Midwest are under wind chill advisories because of a cold arctic air mass, according to the Weather Service. The high for St. Louis is expected to be near 20 degrees Friday.

It's not the first time that someone has stolen a vehicle belonging to a funeral home that had a deceased person inside.

Last year, a man stole a hearse from outside a Los Angeles-area church. The alleged thief was caught the next day and the body was recovered after a chase that ended in a crash on a freeway. When it was stolen, the driver had left that vehicle running while delivering another body, NBC Los Angeles reported at the time.