Port St. Lucie Widow Expresses Gratitude as Stolen Purple Heart Is Replaced
Port St. Lucie, Fla. – A Port St. Lucie widow is filled with gratitude after her husband, a Vietnam veteran, was robbed of his precious Purple Heart, a solemn distinction of his dedicated service. Now, after two long years, the family has finally been made whole again.
Don Huddleston, a Marine who enlisted as a teenager, was battling health problems in the summer of 2021. During this difficult time, his wife, Dorothy Huddleston, noticed some unusual charges on her credit card bills. To her dismay, she discovered that some of her jewelry, along with her husband’s cherished Purple Heart, was missing.
“It was as if something compelled me to open the box, and that’s when I realized it was gone,” Dorothy Huddleston recalled, her voice filled with emotion. Tragically, not long after the theft, Don Huddleston passed away. The loss of the Purple Heart added another layer of heartache for the grieving widow.
Surveillance photos from 2021 revealed that their home health care aide had attempted to pawn what appeared to be the stolen Purple Heart. However, the pawn shop owner refused to accept it, and its whereabouts remain unknown to this day.
Fortunately, justice was served when the home health care aide was arrested and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison in 2022. Nonetheless, the Purple Heart seemed lost forever.
Despite the bleak outlook, the Port St. Lucie police, with their dedicated victim advocate, embarked on an unwavering mission to right this wrong. Over the past two years, they tirelessly pursued leads and explored every possible avenue to bring closure to the Huddleston family.
“The detective reached out to me and asked if I could help this family recover some of their stolen items,” shared victim advocate Lauri Taylor, a seasoned professional who had spent decades working in homicide investigations. Today, she sees the personal side of law enforcement, cherishing the opportunity to provide ongoing support to victims.
“With the victims, we have the chance to work with them for a longer period,” Taylor explained. “The police have a job to do, and they move on to the next crime. But we are there for the victims every step of the way.”
Taylor’s dedication paid off as she helped Dorothy Huddleston navigate the complex process of filing federal forms. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor maintained constant contact with the government until finally securing a replacement for the stolen Purple Heart.
“I felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction when I was able to give her back that one little thing that held such sentimental value for her and her family,” Taylor said, her voice filled with pride.
Port St. Lucie Police Chief Richard Del Toro emphasized the importance of treating victims like family, stating, “Whenever we’re dealing with a victim, we treat them as one of our own. We proudly serve this community and treat them as family.”
Dorothy Huddleston expressed her deep appreciation for the law enforcement family that supported her during the most challenging period of her life. “I feel like I regained a part of my husband, and he would be proud that I persevered. I just know he would be happy,” she tearfully shared.
In a world where justice often feels elusive, the determination and compassion displayed by the Port St. Lucie police and victim advocate Lauri Taylor have brought solace and closure to a grieving widow. While the original Purple Heart may never be recovered, its replacement symbolizes a restored sense of honor and gratitude for Don Huddleston’s invaluable service to his country.