Thief steals van from woman who uses a wheelchair to get around

PHOENIX, AZ - A Valley woman who uses a wheelchair to get around has been left stranded after someone stole her handicapped accessible van while she was grocery shopping.

It happened at the Safeway in Ahwatukee near 48th Street and Elliot Road on Friday.

This thief took more than a van from Jill Michalski -- he stole her mobility.

"What are you thinking, taking somebody's van that is handicapped and needs it so desperately?" she said.

Michalski says she left her van in the loading zone -- open -- while grocery shopping because the ramp wasn't working very well.

"So I leave it open most of the time, but I drive it from my wheelchair so I felt it was pretty safe, that no one was going to take it," Michalski said.

But then a friend who recognized her van ran inside, telling her someone had stolen it.

"So I zipped out of the store and didn't even pay for my groceries and sure enough, my van was gone," she said.

It's a specially-equipped van for handicapped drivers. Jill and her husband depend on it because he can't drive due to a traumatic brain injury.

"It's our only vehicle. I've got to take him to doctor's appointments and he has frequent seizures, so we're stranded right now," Michalski said.

On top of that, she's supporting them both on a teacher's pension. She got laid off from her job of 37 years this year.

"Tough, tough year. This did not need to happen right now," Michalski said.

She can't afford to replace the van. She says it costs anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000 to buy one with the special accommodations she needs.

And wheelchair accessible taxis are too expensive.

"So right now it's just the wheelchair and walking for my husband," she said.

Michalski filed a police report but they haven't found her van yet.

You can keep your eye out for a light blue 2004 Dodge Caravan with a broken left tail light and handicapped plates.

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