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The recover of a couple's stolen RV has led to a disturbing discovery and an eye-opening look at the heroin and opioid epidemic in Snohomish County.
Emily Leigh-Pitstick and her husband Stuart Pitstick said their nearly $80,000 RV was stolen back in March.
"It was a second home to us for sure. We spent so much time in it," said Emily.
The RV was missing for nearly six weeks. Then on Tuesday, the couple got a call that it had been on a private road off Ash Way in Lynnwood.
The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Drug and Gang Task Force also found as many as nine suspected heroin users, living inside the RV in deplorable conditions.
"I did go inside of it, and before I went in I was warned it was pretty bad, but I really wasn't prepared for how bad it was," said Emily. "And I think what bothered me the most is there were a lot of things in there that weren't even ours, that clearly weren't theirs either. So it was something just way beyond getting our RV stolen. These were people that had stolen from other people."
Emily and Stuart took photos and videos to document the damage, as well as the stolen electronics, garbage, guns, ammunition, and drug paraphernalia that was left behind.
They say the RV is beyond repair.
"To see something you put your heart and soul into renovating, to see it just so utterly abused and mistreated, it was just a shock," said Stuart.
But even more than that, the couple feels the real tragedy is that drug addiction is the driving force behind this crime and so many others in Snohomish County.
"I mean, for someone to be in that frame of mind to go and steal something that big and be able to hide in it for a month and a half without being found and living in the conditions they lived in - it's scary to think that is people's way of life and the drugs clearly have a hold on them, which is sad," said Emily.
She said they feel lucky that insurance is paying to replace their RV. But with more and more of these thefts taking place, the Pitstick family recommends all RV owners check their policies, to make sure you have full coverage.
They chose to share the images taken inside the RV to show people the very real impacts of Snohomish County's heroin and opioid crisis.
The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office says heroin use is directly impacting crime rates in their community. Since heroin addicts are rarely able to hold a steady job, authorities say theft becomes one of the easiest options to fund their addiction.
For instance, cases of auto theft in Snohomish County are up by 40 percent. Burglary rates also jumped nearly 80 percent in recent years.
In addition, the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office says deputies have identified over 200 nuisance properties in the county, and almost all of them are home to heroin use.
And perhaps the scariest statistic of all: Snohomish County makes up only 10 percent of the state's population, but is home to 18 percent of all heroin-related deaths in Washington.
"I don't know what the answer is, I don't know what it's going to take," said Emily. "But certainly whatever we're doing as a society and a state is not fixing the problem. We just see it continue to grow."
Meanwhile, four of the nine people found living in the Pitsticks' stolen RV were arrested. No word yet on what sort of charges they might face.
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