Instead of getting River Prather arrested, Jimmy Gilleece decided to take him in and make the 17-year-old a part of his family.
When a patron lost her wallet at Jimmy Gilleece's bar, he not only went above and beyond to find it but also made sure that the thief learned a lesson. The distressed woman came into his bar in Wrightsville, North Carolina, one fine day and told Gilleece that she had misplaced her wallet which had an irreplaceable treasure inside: her wedding ring.
Gilleece consoled his customer and promised that he would find her wallet and the ring inside it. With that, he began going through hours and hours of security camera footage hoping to find something that would lead him to her belongings. He eventually saw that his patron had forgotten her wallet on a bench situated outside the bar which was later picked by a sketchy-looking guy who was passing by.
He finally managed to locate the boy, who identified himself as 17-year-old River Prather. The teenager confessed to pocketing the money inside and throwing the wallet in a nearby ocean channel. While most would stop after hearing that, Gilleece could not as he intended to keep his promise to his customer.
The bar owner went to the extent of hiring a dive team to scour the channel for the wallet. After a few hours of searching, the divers were able to recover the wallet with the ring still inside. When he handed the wallet to the woman, she was overjoyed. But Gilleece didn't stop there, he felt the need to do something more.
Gilleece had come to understand that the teenage thief was just a young homeless boy trying to survive on his own. Instead of having him prosecuted, he decided to selflessly help the young man. "He was living in the woods, and this is when it was 30 degrees outside, and he hadn’t eaten in two days. I could tell he wasn’t a criminal. He was just somebody who needed a little help," he told CBS News.
The bar owner then invited River, who was estranged from his troubled parents, to live with him and his family. Gilleece took a leap of faith and changed the teenager's live forever. "I couldn't have been luckier. Most other people would have just gave the footage to police, and he chose to help me. He’s made me part of his family," noted River, who is now trying to give back to the man who has opened up his heart and his home to him. "I'd do anything for him," said the teenager.
Cover image source: YouTube Screenshot | CBS Evening News