UPDATE: Two vehicles stolen from the Austin Hatcher Foundation were recovered Monday afternoon.

Chattanooga Police say they found them hidden in a wooded area near Rossville Boulevard.

The SUVs were set to be auctioned to raise money for the organization's therapy programs.

The custom vehicles had been missing for two weeks.

Development Coordinator Julia Sharp is happy these vehicles have been recovered, but it was tough seeing the condition they were in.

"Just seeing how the cars were after the kids had worked on them. And after all the awesome paint and everything was complete. It was definitely hard to see them in this state,” Sharp said.

Chattanooga police say a patrol officer found the missing vehicles.

A 2019 Baja Jeep Wrangler and a Ford Explorer. Sharp says both vehicles are a total loss.

"The whole front fender has been completely removed. We had a custom kit on there; it was taken off. The back tires are taken off, the doors they cut completely off at the seam. They just sliced them right off,” Sharp said.

And the damage didn't stop there.

"All of the electrical has been completely stripped from that. The wheels were taken off. Chattanooga police put some wheels on it so it could sit up over there. But it is completely totaled,” Sharp said.

Pediatric cancer patients, survivors and their families built the vehicles to raise funds for the organization's therapy programs. The industrial Arts Therapy Division is in charge of those projects. 

"It takes kids anywhere from three to six months, depending on the car to do the work for these builds,” Sharp said.

Sharp says each vehicle was valued around $60,000.

"It's what we can get for these cars at auction. Our last cars raised over $200,000. For us that was kind of a fundraising opportunity we missed out on,” Sharp said.

The foundation says a donor out of Texas has offered to help fund a new build.

"Being able to have a new project like the Eoso build is a way that we can kind of honor what our kids do and the amazing recovery that they go through,” Sharp said.

One arrest has been made in the case.

Police say they know of at least two others involved, but they haven't been located.

Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: Two vehicles that were stolen from Austin Hatcher Foundation have been recovered.

Chattanooga police say the vehicles were recovered on November 5th near Rossville Blvd.

Investigators say the vehicles had been stripped of valuables, totaled and hidden in a wooded area.

One suspect has already been arrested and held at the Hamilton County Jail.

Chattanooga police are still searching for the second suspect.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Chattanooga Police at 423-698-2525.


PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga police have made one arrest in the theft of two special SUV's that were set to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the Austin Hatcher Foundation.

A second suspect is still at large.

David Charles Chatman, 53, has been charged with 2 counts of theft of property over $10,000, 2 counts of burglary, 2 counts of vandalism/malicious mischief and a count of theft of property over $1,000.

Austin Hatcher Foundation president, Amy Jo Osborn, told Channel 3 “Chattanooga Police say that one suspect is in custody. We are aware that the Health Lifestyle 2018 Ford explorer sustained damage during the theft. The police have located some of its parts indicating the criminals have dismantled the Explorer to some degree. Although the two vehicles are insured for the base value of the vehicle, the customization is not covered and certainly the negative effects it has on the children and family that built the vehicles will be lasting.

A huge thank you to Chattanooga Police, all media, donors and friends for all your help through this process.

The investigation is still underway.”

Chatman is due in court October 30, 2019.

The stolen vehicles have not yet been recovered.


PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga Police are looking at surveillance video from a business near the Austin Hatcher Foundation to try to learn more about two very important vehicles that were stolen.

Construction Consultants has security cameras facing the driveway, and Project Manager Robert Smith says the video shows two vehicles being taken away.

But not a clear image of the people involved.

He hopes the video will help police catch them, though.

"I think it is going to help the police out with finding this because it does establish a good timeline of what happened. And the video can identify some vehicles a little bit and does tell what's going on,” Smith said.

Smith says he got an alert from his security cameras over the weekend.

At first, he didn't see anything out of the ordinary, but when police were able to pinpoint the time of the crime, he saw people going in and out of the area.

"We saw some people coming back in and out at various times through our drive and into the drive behind us. And we saw some vehicles come in and exit out and people getting in and out,” Smith said.

The video shows a car running into the gate and smashing it off its hinges.

"You can see in the background...you can see the garage door being open. They got the car out. It came up and you couldn't tell that it hit the gate. But then you see a few sparks because it was dark,” Smith said.

The vehicles stolen were a 2018 Ford Explorer and Baja Jeep Wrangler built by 25 children.

Those vehicles were set to be auctioned off and raise money for the organization's therapy programs

Smith is still wrapping his head around why someone would do this.

“This is for helping these kids. And what's gonna happen is whoever took these cars are going to take them to a chop shop and sell them out for parts. And when you are taking something that's really benefiting these kids and it can help them out. It just blows my mind,” Smith said.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Chattanooga Police at 423-698-2525.


PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga police are investigating the thefts of two special vehicles over the weekend from the Austin Hatcher Foundation.

A spokesperson for the foundation says the 2018 Ford Explorer and 2018 Jeep Wrangler were taken from the new Education Advancement Center on South Holtzclaw Avenue.

The vehicles were built by pediatric cancer patients and their families.

The vehicles were supposed to be auctioned in January of 2020 in Scottsdale, Arizona, to raise money for the Austin Hatcher Foundation.

“We are completely devastated by this horrible theft,” said Austin Hatcher Foundation President Amy Jo Osborn. “These cars had a lot of hard work and love put into them by our patients, and we’re heartbroken to see the wreckage left behind by whoever stole these vehicles. They obviously damaged the vehicles and left a trail of destroyed parts behind. Even if the police find the vehicles, we probably won’t be able to use them as fundraisers as we’d planned. This is truly a huge loss.”

Jonathan Myren leads the industrial arts program that oversees the vehicles. With donated vehicles and parts, Myren and his team take children and families dealing with cancer and build the one-of-a-kind vehicles.

“We build these cars with the kids as a form of therapy,” he said. “The kids just put so much blood, sweat and tears in actually building these vehicles.”

On Monday morning, Myren was overwhelmed with shock when he got to work.

“I came in here and immediately saw that both our vehicles were gone,” Myren said. “I almost couldn't believe it. It was like, where did they go?”

According to Myren, because the new facility is at the center of a construction site, the thieves "may have crawled under the fence and then got in."

Myren says once inside, they found the keys inside a locked trailer. 

"They ransacked and went through everything and obviously they found keys," Myren said.

BuT THE DAMAGE DIDN'T STOP THERE. myren SAYS THE THIEVES CRASHED THROUGH THE ENTRANCE GATE WITH ONE OF THE VEHICLES TO GET AWAY. 

"It's very depressing how people can just take from you," Myren said. 

The organization is hoping to raise $225,000 to help make up for what these vehicles would have raised at the auction. If you would like to help, click here. 

If you have any information about this case, please call the Chattanooga Police Department at 423-698-2525.