A west Pasco woman went to a Benton County court Thursday to finalize her divorce and ended up getting her car stolen.
Marie Cimmiyotti, 32, said she was sure she locked her SUV when she walked into the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick, but she misplaced her keys and they apparently fell into the wrong hands.
The mother of two said she got to court around 8 a.m. and when she walked out about 9:30 a.m., her blue 2007 Jeep Patriot was gone.
"I can't believe somebody stole it from the courthouse," she told the Herald.
Never miss a local story.
The Benton County Sheriff's Office is at the justice center, but the car theft report was filed with Kennewick police, because it happened in the city limits.
Kennewick police spokesman Mike Blatman said this is the first time he has heard of a vehicle being stolen from the justice center parking lot.
"I'm familiar with people leaving keys and other people picking them up," he said, suspecting that the alarms on cars with remote keyless entry make finding the matching car much easier.
"I don't know that this is what happened, but in theory ... all you have to do is walk in the parking lot and press the alarm button," Blatman said. "When the alarm goes off, you know what kind of vehicle it is."
Cimmiyotti bought the SUV in August, but didn't have it registered in her name yet, Blatman said. Officers were able to confirm with the registered owner in Arizona that Cimmiyotti bought the Jeep.
About eight hours after the Jeep was taken, it was found abandoned in a ravine off Badger Canyon Road. The only damage appeared to be some scratches from being pushed into the brush, she said.
The thieves took her laptop for her marketing and public relations business, a checkbook and garage door opener.
Blatman said there's not much police can do when cars are stolen beyond keeping an eye out for them. But he said citizens can prevent car thefts by making sure their keys are secured.
"This is basic crime prevention," he said. "She didn't leave (her keys out) intentionally, but it's no difference than if she had left her debit card sitting there. Someone will take it and try to use it."
Cimmiyotti said she's not sure if she left her keys on the bench outside the courtroom or left them behind when she went through security -- she has a pacemaker becauseof a heart condition and can't go through the metal detector.
But she said she was surprised to learn there aren't cameras in the courthouse parking lot.
"I feel like it's a safety issue for the community," she said.
Anyone with information on the theft is asked to call police.