RICHMOND, R.I. (WPRI) — Corporal Lawens Fevrier got the mail on a fall day last year at the Hope Valley Barracks of the Rhode Island State Police. What he found was pretty unusual—a letter postmarked from Brooklyn, New York.
“Dear Rhode Island State Highway Patrol,” the letter read. “I lost my Roger…can you please find him? I love him,” the writer said.
“Roger is a cheetah,” the writer added, with a hand-drawn photo of Roger. “He fell out of the car window on Interstate 95 around West Greenwich. He is about 12 inches long.”
It was signed: Will Ketcher, 4 years old.
Fevrier said he was touched by the letter, thinking of his own young sons at home.
“I know how important it is for them to sleep with their blankets or stuffed animal,” he said. “We were all 4 years old at one time in our lives.”
Will’s mom, Stephanie Ketcher, says the family was never expecting to hear back from the state police.
“The letter was never designed to be effective,” Ketcher said in a FaceTime interview from Brooklyn.
She said the family had been visiting Will’s aunt at the University of Rhode Island when Will was hanging his stuffed cheetah out the window. The stuffed animal then flew out onto the highway.
“That instantaneous reaction of…’I told you not to do that, I knew he was going to fly out the window,’” Ketcher said. “That quickly went away when I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw his sweet, sad face crumple up.”
With the 4-year-old’s prize possession gone, the family determined it was unsafe to stop and try and retrieve it on I-95. In an attempt to quell Will’s devastation, Ketcher said Will’s dad suggested they write a letter.
“Let’s write to the state police and try to get Roger back,” Ketcher said.
The idea came from a scene in the Charlie Brown comic strip where Linus, desperate to recover his lost blanket that Lucy had used as a kite, puts an ad in the local paper asking for help finding it. In the comic strip, the “Air Rescue Service” eventually finds it floating over the Pacific Ocean.
In Roger’s story, officials were not so lucky. Fevrier says troopers were on the lookout for the stuffed cheetah on I-95 but fell short.
“We actually did send search and rescue out there,” he quipped. “Unfortunately it was raining and we just couldn’t find the one that he lost.”
A number of months went by. Then, one day Ketcher arrived home in Brooklyn and saw a package waiting.
“I saw the return label on the box and I couldn’t even believe it,” she said.
When the family opened the box, there was a brand new stuffed cheetah for Will—and a letter from the Rhode Island State Police.
“On behalf of the Rhode Island State Police, we are so sorry that Roger was lost,” the note read. “We spent days looking for him on the highway. We couldn’t find him. We did find another cheetah walking around the highway. We stopped to talk to him. He said that he was looking for a new home in the Big Apple and we thought of you. Before we sent him to you we had to make him a Cheetah Trooper. The first cheetah trooper in the history of the Rhode Island State Police.”
“He went right along with the narrative that we had created for Will,” Ketcher said. “Everybody we have told this story to is moved almost to tears. Some actually to tears.”
Ketcher said the gesture “restored her faith in humanity.”
“There’s so much negative stuff going on in the world, we’re inundated with it… it’s so refreshing to have something like this happen that just reminds you that there are really good people out there,” she said.
When asked why he went above and beyond to help an out-of-state kid, Fevrier’s answer was simple.
“We take every case serious, whether it’s a crime scene or a letter from Will,” Fevrier said. “We just wanted to…make him happy.”
Over FaceTime, 4-year-old Will was certainly happy—thanking the state police and telling us he gave his new cheetah a very fitting name: “Rhody.”