NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20: Funeral director Peter DeLuca, owner of Greenwich Village Funeral Home, holds a cremation urn in the showroom of his funeral parlor on November 20, 2008 in New York City. New technologies, such as flat screen televisions for video memorials, ornate and even sports-team themed cremation urns are also slowly being introduced at funeral homes. Despite the currently languishing economy, the funeral home world is readying for an upswing nationally, as the recession-resistant business prepares for an expected rise in death rates as baby boomers start to reach old age in the coming decade. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
The ah-ha moment is linked to a petty crime and the couple's long lost son.
Four months ago the remains of Charles and Jean Johnson disappeared.
Charles Johnson died in 1999, and Jean Johnson died in 2004. For some reason their remains were not transferred to a relative until the fall of 2009.
It was in that transfer that they were lost.
The urn was found on the front porch of a home on other side of the country last fall, but sat unidentified for months.
Neighbors of the vacant home in Butler, Penn. noticed something wrapped in purple velvet in October.
"We went over there and opened them and found ashes inside. There were boxes with people's ashes. We didn't open the boxes, but on the outside there was a thing from a mortuary saying that they were so and so's ashes," neighbor Barb Summerville said.
A tag on the urn box traced the contents back to West Sacramento. Turns out it was the Johnson's.
The Johnsons lived in West Sacramento and attended Trinity Presbyterian Church for more than 30 years. Charles Johnson was an active Mason and Jean Johnson was active in Eastern Star until her death.
The Neptune Society in Sacramento County did the cremation service for the family and say they handed the remains to a relative.
The problem came in because that relative was the couple's only son, Larry, who moved to Los Angeles, changed his name, and lost touch with his parents long ago.
Police figured out this week that Larry moved to Pennsylvania and had asked for a friend to ship his parents remains. The urn was stolen from his front door and then later dumped when the robbers realized what they'd taken.
Butler police turned over the turn to the Johnson's son Tuesday night.
KCRA contributed to this report.