Several stolen instruments recovered after “guilty” thief came forward

Several stolen instruments were recovered from a homeless encampment on 71 and Westgate in Southwest Austin Monday.

The instruments were stolen from the Austin School of Music's "Rock Box," a shipping container-turned-studio located in the school's parking lot on Saturday night. Surveillance video shared with FOX 7 Austin shows them being loaded into a shopping cart.

Decorations such as tapestries were stolen along with these instruments:

  • TAMA Imperial Star 5-piece kit, pewter wrap w/black hardware
  • HARMONY 5-piece kit, black w/chrome hardware
  • 1 EV 81 PMX 8-channel powered mixer
  • 1 YAMAHA SM15H floor monitor
  • 1 IBANEZ Mikro electric guitar, black
  • 1 GODIN Acousticaster 6 guitar, red sunburst
  • 1 VOX Cambridge 15 guitar amplifier, late 90's
  • 1 FENDER CHAMP Silverface guitar amplifier, mid 70's
  • 1 MUSITRONIC 206A electric piano

Austin School of Music owner David Seebee estimates the instruments cost $5,000 - $6,000. Insurance will give him market-value, but he says their value is sentimental — many of the instruments that were stolen are decades old.

On Tuesday, a homeless man walked into Strait Music Company — a music store attached to the Austin Music School and told employee Greg Scarborough he was responsible for the theft. "It gives me a sense of hope and also I feel really sorry for the person." said Scarborough.

Scarborough told FOX 7 Austin the man had been crying. He said he felt "guilty" and wanted to return the equipment. 

"When situations like this arise, I think instead of acting in anger or with malice or whatever — if you can, try and understand why the person did what they did." said Seebree.

Seebree told FOX 7 Austin he thinks he has seen the man before with instruments. As a musician and music teacher, that tugs at his heartstrings. "It’s hard because so many musicians have a hand to mouth existence anyways, especially in Austin. [Homelessness] could happen pretty easily especially with COVID." he said.

Tuesday afternoon Sebree, his colleague Darin Murphy and some friends searched homeless encampments near the school for the stolen equipment, locating it at a camp on 71 and Westgate. The man responsible was not at the camp, but his friends were — and helped the men recover their equipment.

Sebree told FOX 7 only about 30 percent of the stolen equipment was recovered. Some of that equipment was damaged. He said he does not plan to press charges as long as the man responsible cooperates with recovery efforts.

"What would it do? Get him in jail for a few months and then he’d come back in the same situation? And it would tie up tax dollars?" he said.

Sebree says he hopes he can find a way to help his fellow musician "financially or help him find a job just to keep the positive karma flowing."

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