By Velena Jones

EL DORADO HILLS (CBS13) — A diamond ring holding 60 years of memories is much more than just a symbol of Patricia Lionberger’s nearly 40-year marriage — it’s a reminder of the man who is no longer here to celebrate their anniversary.

Credit: El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office

“I just have never been able to find somebody to replace him and never will,” she said.

Patricia was a stewardess in the 1950s when she met her late husband Edward, a pilot engineer for United Airlines. Edward passed away 20 years ago, but she still wears her wedding ring every day and only takes it off when she is at home.

Last October she put the nearly $10,000 ring in her dresser while her regular cleaning crew came by to tidy up. She has had the same people come to clean her house twice a month for more than a year. When they left, the ring was nowhere to be found.

“I just couldn’t believe it, I tore the top drawer apart, took everything out of it. And it wasn’t there, I just knew one of them had taken it,” she said.

Patricia called the local El Dorado Hills cleaning company, which not only denied taking the ring but still made her pay for the service. She immediately filed a report with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office but did not expect the ring to be returned.

“I was just devastated,” she explained. “Then I thought well that’s the end of it, I will never see the ring again.”

For months she heard nothing until detectives discovered the ring was sold to a Sacramento pawn shop. The ring was sold for only $550 to Capital City Loan and Jewelry in Rancho Cordova in October.

Investigators discovered the ring in February before it was sold. They returned it to Patricia days later two weeks before her birthday. She says this is the only birthday present she needs.

“I just think I am so blessed that I got it back. It was one in a million chances,” she said.

Investigators are not releasing the name of the suspect because he has not been booked in jail. The sheriff’s office says he confessed to the theft when interviewed by authorities. The sheriff’s office is recommending charges of elder abuse and grand theft to the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.

The General Manager of Capital City Loan and Jewelry tells CBS13 that they are also a victim in this crime. The shop is now out of the money they paid the suspect for the stolen ring. The general manager says they put the information in a Department of Justice database that tracks all items bought and sold to pawn shops.

The shop believes this is how authorities tracked down the ring.

Velena Jones