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Thief steals young widow's car, husband's remains

Posted at 4:39 PM, Jan 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 17:58:12-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A young widow is dealing with more heartache after a thief stole her car, along with her husband's remains.

Twenty-year-old Kristy Wood met Derek Sampaga, 21, while they were living in New Mexico. Three months later, they were married. The young couple started their lives together last July.

"It was love at first sight, as cliche as it sounds ... He was super goofy. We were always doing fun stuff," said Wood.

Soon after, Wood enlisted in the Army, but an injury and diagnosed bone condition cut short her Army career. She returned home in late October to horrific news.

"I was speechless. My heart stopped. My eyes filled with tears. It was so unreal," said Wood.

Her husband had taken his own life two days before she returned.

"He didn't leave behind in any notes or letters. We didn't have any answers," said Wood.

Wood, a San Diego native, moved back to the area for a fresh start. She was staying with a friend, so most of her belongings remained in her 2014 Chevy Camaro LT. On New Year's Eve, she drove to San Bernardino for a music festival. Around 5 a.m. outside a Motel 6 in Redlands, she started her car and ran inside to get her friends to go out to a restaurant. Video shows a person lurking around the vehicle before driving off with her car.

"Watching the video is like watching someone drive away with my life," said Wood, choking back tears.

Among the items stolen: an urn with her husband's remains, which she was driving to his grandmother.

"It takes away his family's closure," said Wood.

Also gone: the couple's wedding rings and a promise ring, all hanging with her husband's military dog tags off her rear view mirror. Sampaga was medically discharged from the Army.

"Just made me feel he was there with me. I was taking him everywhere with me. Now it's like he's gone ... My heart is broken, again," said Wood.

A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help Wood get back on her feet.

Update, Jan. 9: Wood told 10News her Camaro was recovered in Phoenix. Police arrested a man at a hotel for the theft. Wood's late husband's dog tags and a necklace he never had a chance to give her were inside the car, but the wedding rings and promise rings were not found. The urn containing her husband's ashes was recovered, but it was empty.