Thieves almost ruin Christmas surprise for single mom who lost car during Harvey

CHANNELVIEW, Texas (KTRK) -- Vanessa Zuniga lost her car during Hurricane Harvey. For four months, the single mom has relied on family and friends driving her to work and her son to school.

Thursday, that changed.

Bates Collision Center gifted Zuniga a refurbished Lincoln filled with Christmas presents for her four-year-old son, Nathan.

But, it almost didn't happen.

"The car was full of presents for the family," Lee Bates said, showing ABC13 an empty trunk. "They were all in the trunk, some piled in the back of the car."

Overnight, thieves stole every last present.

Bates said someone cut a hole in the fence at the Channelview business, then broke into the garage.

Inside, sat the gold Lincoln and the car keys. The thief opened the trunk and took the gifts. Also stolen: A trailer, tools and a welder. Bates estimated the cost of the stolen items to be $10,000.

He refused to let the robbery ruin the day.

"We are not going to let this Grinch our Christmas, it's not going to happen," Bates said.

Workers hustled to rebuy gifts. They filled the trunk again, just in time for the giveaway.

"I feel so happy, I feel blessed," Zuniga said, moved to tears. "People don't have to do these things and they did. It just brings joy to me."

Investigators don't have leads on who could have taken the gifts. Bates said while he's frustrated, he isn't angry. He hopes some child will enjoy them.

"Those people stole a bunch of gifts but their kids don't know their parents are criminals. Maybe they will have a good Christmas, too."

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