For Nevada Police Officer Ryan Hutton, finding a small item that was taken from a grave site in Nevada and seeing the reaction of the parents when it was returned, is the highlight of his career thus far.

The item is a metal mailbox, mounted on a stand that goes into the ground and affixed with the Marine emblem. It was received from a good friend by the family of Jordan Kieffer, a 2011 Nevada High School graduate who had served in the Marine Corp. Jordan died in 2016. The mailbox had been placed beside his grave in the Nevada Municipal Cemetery.

“Inside (of the mailbox) there was a journal and keepsakes that people left there for Jordan,” Jordan’s father, Jim Kieffer said. “In the journal, people left notes and messages to Jordan.”

The Kieffer family said the mailbox was beside the grave all of last summer and fall, and they took it down and stored it for safe keeping over the winter. When they put it back out on April 2 of this year, it didn’t stay in the cemetery very long. About two weeks later, just before Easter Sunday, it was gone.

Hutton, who joined the Nevada Public Safety Department two years ago, was the officer who came to take the report of the theft. But Jim said taking that report wasn’t all that Hutton did.

“Ryan continued to follow up after the initial report, talking to people and getting information from local kids that he thought might know something,” Jim said.

Jordan’s mom, Julie, also noticed the officer’s commitment to the case. “Every time he saw Jim outside, he would stop and keep him updated on his investigation, and tell Jim he was still working on it — doing everything he could. Officer Hutton also was investigating other thefts at the cemetery, as well as his other cases along with our report.”

Hutton said he was working another case when he received some information about missing items that led him to the mailbox. “I had a gut feeling it might be at the residence (in that case). I was lucky and located it,” he said.

To be honest, Hutton never thought he’d find the mailbox. “These theft items are not really ever located,” he said.

He was so excited when he found the Kieffer’s belonging, that he went to their house right after clearing the call he was on, even though it was after 10 p.m.

That was a week ago Tuesday night (May 30), and they definitely weren’t upset about him coming by late.

“Ryan rang the bell, and when Julie answered, he gave [the mailbox] back to her, saying he had just located it and didn’t want to waste a minute of time returning it to us. Julie burst into tears and hugged him — it meant that much to us that he would do this,” Jim said. Even Jim gets teary-eyed talking about how much the officer’s perseverance means to the family.

Hutton said Jim was always a pleasure to talk to whenever he stopped by the Kieffer house during his ongoing search. “That (Jim’s demeanor) was the encouragement to keep looking,” he said.

And where he found it was not as much of a concern to Hutton as the crime itself. The theft isn’t considered that serious, as crimes go, but the type of theft — taking things away from a cemetery where families trust them to be for their lost loved ones — that’s very troubling. And this type of crime, as social media posts tell us, sadly happen all the time in our local cemeteries and cause many citizens great pain.

These small items that are taken, like the Kieffer mailbox, Hutton said, “mean a million times more to the family than their actual value.”

The Kieffer family would agree. “What an outstanding and wonderful thing to do,” Julie said. “To follow up on something so meaningful to us, but with little value to anyone else, and track it down and return it to us, when he had so many other things to work on. It was so very touching.”

Jim said the story of the mailbox is not a story about the Kieffers; it’s a story about the officer and the local police, who we often hear a lot of negative comments about. Kieffer and his family believe Nevada people need to hear the positives, too. “We need to remember all the good they do, how well we are served and how blessed we are for the service they provide … (We need to) remember that they, too, are members of our community,” Jim said.

“Not only did the returning of the mailbox mean a lot, but the thoughtfulness and caring that went into tracking this down and returning it to our family meant even more than the return of the box,” Jim concluded.