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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 12:44 GMT
US police baffled by stolen limbs
Map showing the US state of California
Police in California are trying to understand why a teenage girl's prosthetic limb was stolen - and returned - twice in four months.

The $12,000 (6,900) cosmetic leg was stolen from Melissa Huff's home near Los Angeles in November, and thrown back into her yard in January.

But on Valentine's Day the limb - and a second donated by a sympathetic community - were both stolen.

Melissa's mother found them in the back of her unlocked car last Wednesday.

Fingerprints

Melissa, 16, who lost her right leg below the knee in a car accident two years ago, said of the thefts: "It doesn't bother me... I'm not scared of them."

When [Mrs Huff] drove away she heard some rattling and ultimately found the two legs
Police Sgt David Austin

Ken Harper, a policeman in Arcadia, 38km (24 miles) east of Los Angeles, told the Associated Press news agency there were no witnesses to the return of the legs last Wednesday.

"Nobody was seen in or around the car... We lifted some fingerprints and will see if there is any match," he said.

Police said the legs were scrawled with graffiti.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt David Austin told Reuters news agency Mrs Huff had the vehicle at Arcadia High School for about two hours.

"When she drove away she heard some rattling and ultimately found the two legs."

Police were treating the incident as a crime, he added.

"This is grand theft and burglary and if we find out who's responsible we'll take appropriate action."

The community had rallied round after the first theft on 1 November, when a hole was cut in the window screen of the Huff home.

Melissa's doctor and two firms paid for a new $16,000 sports leg to help her play softball at Arcadia High.

She was unable to wear either because of surgery at the time of the second theft, when they were taken from her bedroom.

Melissa had been scheduled to pick up a third leg on Friday, which had been donated by the community.



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