Then SI got lucky. "Dr. Hart" had made an appointment with Baltimore Colts heroes John Mackey and Lenny Moore and then no-showed. But he screwed up: He left an address at the hotel where they were supposed to meet: 66 Montgomery Street, Fonda, N.Y.
Next came an amazing twist. The week my column ran, a birth announcement appeared in The Leader-Herald of Gloversville, N.Y., near Fonda. It read, "Shawn and Juliette Stevens of 66 Montgomery St., Gloversville, are the parents of twin daughters." Look what the stork brought! Federal agents!
SI reporter Luis Fernando Llosa went to that address. A woman insisted that nobody named Stevens lived there. Llosa thanked her and left. On the way to his car he noted two mailboxes marked STEVENS and an SUV with the plates 4STEVENS.
Meanwhile, a Gloversville memorabilia dealer named Mike Hauser remembered a photo he'd taken of Stevens at a show two years earlier. He sent it to Donna Pihos and to Lou Creekmur with the question, "Is this Dr. Hart?"
"It is him!!!!" Donna e-mailed back. "I am sure of it...the eyes are his!!!!" Lou and his wife, Caroline, also I.D.'d Stevens.
All this was handed over to the Winston-Salem police, who, with help from U.S. postal inspectors, the Secret Service and the U.S. attorney in Greensboro, were talking with Stevens's lawyer about charges and recovering the memorabilia. (Stevens did not return calls from SI.) "James Hart has been identified as Shawn Stevens," Detective T.J. Taylor said. "We expect an arrest soon."
Memo to Stevens's lawyer: Get paid in cash.
As for the reward money, it's going to be split between Whitmore—who plans to give his half to Pihos—and Hauser, who hopes to invest the money in a show to benefit Pete. So Donna is still crying but only because she can't believe the good news. The dental bills are covered, and a good chunk of the day-care bills will be too. "Oh, my heavens," she says, "I'm overwhelmed by the kindness of people." And Pete? "I don't think he grasps what's going on," she says, "but I tell him, 'There are so many people who love and care about you.' And he's so happy to hear that."
Now, don't you feel better?