Man clears conscience 54 years after stealing plants - WSMV News 4

Man clears conscience 54 years after stealing plants

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An unsolved theft in Nashville from 54 years ago is now solved. The thief turned himself in, and even better, he returned the stolen goods.

What cracked the case is the man's guilty conscience. No police examination was needed. This was all self-examination, and now the scandal is buried forever.

Seldom would a thief be welcomed back with open arms, but Bill Teitleff is no ordinary thief and this is no ordinary story.

In 1958, Teitleff was 18 years old and just married. He didn't have money for a Mother's Day gift for his mom in Kentucky, but while walking around Centennial Park with his newlywed he hatched a criminal plot.

"They've got the most beautiful, perfectly formed hydrangeas you've ever seen. They were just perfect in rows and pots," Teitleff said.

Running without lights, he and a friend swooped by the park and scooped up two potted hydrangeas.

Now, at age 72 and living on a farm in western Kentucky, Teitleff's past caught up with him. And he didn't like how it looked.

"I knew it was wrong. I thought all along that I was borrowing them. But this stayed with me all this time," Teitleff said. "Now it's been 54 years, and I've got the root and same flowers that they have accepted back now. This doesn't clear what I did. That's between me and him (points to the sky). But this is between me and the people here at the park, and they've accepted wholeheartedly."

And now, a trip to Centennial Park comes without guilt, without shame and with a lesson to fix what you can.

"Nobody can do it for them. They have to be the first to go back and do it. Sometimes it hurts when we go back and ask somebody for forgiveness, but when we do, we feel better inside and that person thinks a lot more of us," Teitleff said.

Those hydrangeas he brought back Thursday are from the original root system on his mom's farm in Joy, KY. He did not go to a gardener or Lowe's, but rather he brought back exactly what he stole.

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