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Family of 14-year-old killed in Des Moines hit-and-run searches for important belonging they say was stolen

Three weeks ago, 14-year-old Ema Cardenas was killed in a hit-and-run. Now, Ema's sister Nayelli Sandoval says Ema's phone was stolen from the scene.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Three weeks ago, 14-year-old Ema Cardenas was killed in a hit-and-run on E University Ave and Sampson St.

Now, Ema's sister shared that on top of processing the death of her little sister, she is also trying to locate personal items she believes were stolen at the scene

"The day of the accident, we were trying to look for her phone. It had died a few hours after, but we were just still at the hospital. So, that really, really, wasn't one of our main priorities," Nayelli Sandoval said. 

Sandoval said her little sister died, her family was given Ema's belongs, but one very key item was missing.

"It wasn't in her bag of belongings, it wasn't in that. And then my mom had called the detective and it wasn't with the police."

That's when Nayelli started tracking the device with Find My iPhone.

"I look at it, like every single day to see where was that? And it would be like these three, or it was more like two main locations," Sandoval told Local 5.

Sgt. Paul Parizek with the Des Moines  Police Department explained tracking down a stolen device is no easy feat.

"Getting a judge to sign a warrant to get us into a person's private home, there's a pretty high threshold for evidence there. And simply that little marker might not be enough. You start trying to balance people's rights versus, you know, the recovery of a piece of property. And we've got to really meet a high standard to get inside that person's home," he said. 

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When asked what Sandoval wishes to say to the person with her sister's phone, she replied with one question.

"Why would you go to a crime scene where someone lost their life and take the one thing that has like other memories and messages?" 

She is urging whoever has the final piece of her sister to send it home so the memories can be used to comfort the people who love her most.

"If you have that phone, you turn it in to us. You don't even have to say it's you. Turn it in anonymously, go to the post office, I don't know ... have them sent to us. It's the one thing that we have of her," Sandoval said.

The Des Moines Police Department says they will keep working with Ema's family on retrieving the phone. Police are asking anyone with any information to call Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa at 515-223-1400.

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