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Family's car stolen and set on fire

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An Eastern Iowa family says their lives have been turned upside down, after their car was stolen and set on fire during a rash of car break-ins in Delhi. 

The Delaware County Sheriff's Office says they responded to a report of several car break-ins last Wednesday, Dec. 20th in Delhi.

According to the Sheriff, a deputy spotted a fire and after investigating, they found a car on fire, sitting under an overpass in Delaware. During the investigation, they found that the vehicle had been stolen from Paladin, the same area where a number of cars had been broken into.

Matt Alexander and Shanessa Derby say their Ford Expedition was stolen and set on fire. 

Matt Alexander, who had been working at Paladin, says management came to warn them about break-ins occurring in their parking lot. 

"Suddenly they had a meeting where they pulled everyone together and was like 'hey there's someone going out there, messing with vehicles, we want you guys to check to make sure everything's fine.'" said Alexander. "I walk out there and I know exactly where I parked, because I park in the same spot everyday. I walk out there and i'm like okay is my vehicle not here, what's going on?"

The Delaware County Sheriff's office found their car only a few miles away in Delaware, but it wasn't what they were expecting to find. 

"I don't understand why someone would do such a thing," said Derby. 

The Sheriff's office arrested 26-year-old Tyler Sternhagen. Sternhagen, of Delhi, was charged with Arson 2nd Degree, Theft 2nd Degree, four counts of Burglary 3rd Degree, three counts of Theft 5th, and two counts of Criminal Mischief 2nd Degree. He's being held at the Delaware County Jail.  

But for this family of four, the trauma of it all has been a tough pill to swallow during the holidays. 

"It was immediately a shock, I didn't know what to feel, what to think," said Derby.  "I couldn't believe someone would actually do that."

Their Ford Expedition was set on fire, and burned down to the frame. Not only was their car burned down, but with it-heir 6-year-old twins car seats, favorite stuffed animals, and fishing equipment.    

The family says the trauma of it all shaking up the two little ones. 

"It's hard to explain to two six-year-olds when you don't understand it yourself," said Derby. 

One of the lingering questions the family has- is what Sternhagen's motive was. The family says they don't know Sternhagen. 

"Nope, never even see him, heard of him," said Alexander.

Their Ford Expedition was their only vehicle, leaving them in a tough position. 

"Why did it have to be us of all vehicles?" asked Derby. "How are our kids going to get back to school? How are we going to get to work? I don't know. "

The family says they are grateful for the outpouring of support from family and friends on their GoFundMe

"We're really thankful nobody got hurt," said Alexander. 

Sternhagen is being held at the Delaware County jail. 

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