Ft. Worth Star Telegram
The Athens Review
Austin Burtnett, a Trinity Valley Student, just completed the final phase of restoration on his 1986 GMC Sierra truck two weeks ago, and had reason to be proud.
It wasn't your routine grease-monkey garage job. Austin, 19, had painstakingly rebuilt it in honor of his hot rod-loving father, Foley Burtnett of Springtown, who helped him get the truck on his 16th birthday several years ago, and died in June 2011 from stomach cancer.
But the pickup, a sparkling black 1986 GMC Sierra 1500 with a fresh muffler job, was stolen from the dorm parking lot at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens in East Texas, where Austin is on a football scholarship, shortly after 8 a.m. on Oct. 12.
The thief left a stolen vehicle from Palestine in its place, and might not have made a clean getaway if Austin - a 6-foot 3-inch, 300-pound lineman - hadn't been admitted to a hospital the previous day. He was injured a few weeks ago at football practice and developed a serious staph infection requiring medical attention.
"He called me in tears on Friday," said his mother, Kyle Spaulding of Keller. "I'm just heartbroken for him. He's just had tragedy left and right."
Spaulding said Austin and his twin sister, Kendall Burtnett, who plays for the UT-Tyler girls soccer team, have been struck by their father's absence at such events as graduation, his birthday, their birthdays, Father's Day in the past year.
"Austin spent the money his father left him to rebuild that truck in honor of his dad, and in memory of their time together," Spaulding said.
Police at Trinity Valley say they have video of the car thief stealing Austin's pickup and leaving the other vehicle behind.
They're asking for the public's help in finding the '86 GMC Sierra - Texas license plate No. 62W WL5 - and the criminal who stole it.
Anyone who has seen it or has information about the case should contact TVCC Police Chief Heath Carike at 903- 675-6235, or Spaulding at 817-980-7582.
This story was reprinted from the Fort Worth Star Telegram.