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Children Tempted, But Surrender Briefcase Full of Money

January 12, 1991

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ A sixth-grader found a briefcase containing $2,380, then spent two hours with a classmate planning how to spend the fortune before deciding to return it.

″I’d never seen so much money in my life, except on TV,″ 12-year-old Jeffrey Welch said Thursday.

The grateful briefcase owner, Charles Coykendall, 79, said he understood the temptation.

″That’s human,″ the Baldwin businessman said. ″I can just see them trying to figure it out. This shows that kids know how to do right.″

Jeffrey found the locked briefcase Jan. 4 next to a trash container. He brought it to a house where classmate Theresa Benson, 11, was baby-sitting her 6-year-old niece, Nikoa Wollen.

They pried it open and found blueprints, survey maps and a folder.

″I shook it (the folder) out and money fell on the floor, hundred dollar bills, lots of them,″ Jeffrey said.

The children hid the money and briefcase and started making shopping plans. Jeffrey said he wanted to buy every tape by The New Kids on the Block, while Theresa planned to buy clothes.

Nikoa expressed the first misgivings, Theresa and Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey said he then began having doubts. ″Like our parents wouldn’t notice $2,000 worth of new clothes and tapes. Right?″

They handed the briefcase and money over to Nikoa’s mother, Teresa Wollen.

After failing to reach Coykendall by phone, Wollen took the briefcase to Grand Rapids police headquarters.

Coykendall said he had been visiting a friend and accidentally left the case on the bumper of his truck. He drove off, then realized his mistake and returned 15 minutes later but couldn’t find the case.

He said he would give the children a reward, but hadn’t decided on the amount.