BRADENTON, Fla. — A cold-hearted wedding thief swiped about $5,000 in gifts from a young couple just hours after they tied the knot in central Florida, officials said Wednesday.
The heist happened at The Pavilion at Mixon Farms in Bradenton on Saturday at about 11:30 p.m., following the marriage reception of Christopher Cox and Emma Baker, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office said.
"We're always hopeful that someone will know something and we'll get a tip," Sheriff's spokesman Randy Warren said Wednesday.
The party, with more than 140 guests, had wrapped up and Baker's dad put a bag with the couple's marriage certificate, cards and cash gifts into the back of Cox's truck, the couple and venue director said. When the dad left for a moment to load more supplies into Cox's truck, the thief grabbed the bag of cash and cards.
"My initial reaction was like this, this is actually real?" Cox told NBC News on Wednesday. "Like people do this?"
The bride and groom, who met through a church group, said the heist wouldn't ruin their big night.
"Not at all, it may have ended on a sour note at the very end but that doesn't ruin the whole entire day," said Baker, 22.
Cox, 30, gazed at his newlywed wife and added: "I'm blessed."
The venue shared surveillance video of the theft, showing a woman circling the parking lot in a silver Ford Explorer and waiting for her chance to strike.
"They waited, and as soon as the father of the bride put that bag in Chris' truck, she walked up to the truck," Brandy Harlan, the venue’s director of marketing and lead coordinator, said in a Facebook video. "And then she ran through the bushes to her car that was waiting," Harlan added.
Harlan claimed venue security cameras captured the thief's license plate, but Warren said that footage was too grainy to pull numbers.
While Warren said he's optimistic someone in the community will come through with a case-breaking tip, he warned: "These things take a little time."
"Whoever you are and whatever it is you think you got away with it's short-lived because we have an amazing community ... we're going to find who this person is," Harlan said.
Harlan had angry, but also compassionate, words for the thief.
"We pray for you because for you and whoever else who planned this, obviously you need some prayer and some help," she said.
The newlyweds also said they forgive the thief.
"Honestly, we've forgiven her," Baker said. "We are still hurt that our friends and family ... they were almost robbed instead of us because it was their money in the first place, you know, but we've forgiven her."
Cox wondered out loud how desperate the thief might have been, to resort to stealing from newlyweds.
"If she needed that (money) more than we did, then by all means I hope she gets everything that she needed out of it," he said.
Morgan Chesky reported from Bradenton and David K. Li from New York.