As she prepared for her second child, Karen Schatmeier knew she was going to have a difficult pregnancy. She suffers from a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, an extraordinarily severe form of morning sickness.

When she had her first child, now a 19-month-old toddler, Karen lost 15 pounds initially. At 11 weeks in this pregnancy, she has lost 12 pounds. The 36-year-old teacher is frequently on the couch taking fluids through an IV, which makes it tough to give her daughter quality time.

All that made the package she was expecting from the stranger in Texas something special. Karen's mother belongs to a group called Beyond Morning Sickness, and had put out the word that her daughter needed help, particularly in how to deal with a toddler during her sickness.

Image from the surveillance video
Image from the surveillance video

The Texas good Samaritan, who had suffered from HG three times herself, assembled a care package for Karen, whom she had never met. Inside were a blanket, a card, a poem and three books -- two on HG and one for a toddler with a sick mother.

The records show the package arrived at Karen's Blossom Valley home on the afternoon of June 22. As it happened, she and her husband weren't home. They had taken their daughter, Nina, for a weekend at Pismo Beach, a badly needed tonic.

No package

When the Schatmeiers got home June 23, the package wasn't there. After Karen's mother asked whether it had arrived, Karen and her husband went through about 26 hours of footage from their surveillance camera, which was aimed at the front porch as an anti-crime precaution.

The surveillance tape, which you can see at www.mercurynews.com/scott-herhold, shows a late '90s silver Honda with a spoiler and sunroof pulling past their house about 3 p.m. Sunday. Out jumps a buxom woman in tight sports attire. She walks straight up to the porch and grabs the package before running back to the car.

"I had started to assume it was our mistake," Karen recalled. "Then we saw her in plain sight walk up to our porch. She knew it was there. It was shocking. I felt like my heart dropped."

This kind of thing happens too often in San Jose. A year or so ago, a similar theft occurred in my neighborhood. A fuzzy surveillance tape also caught a dark-haired woman in sports gear grabbing a package from a porch. I don't think they are the same.

A galling theft

I asked Karen why this theft galled her. After all, it is not really a matter of the money. The thief must have been upset at the haul. There was nothing easily marketable inside. The package meant most to someone with HG.

"This is just an example of good versus evil," Karen told me. "Here this woman out of the goodness of her heart made this gesture. It was taken away by someone who I'm sure thought there was a luxury item inside. It was really unfortunate that her gift was taken away."

Yes, there are the standard lessons from a story like this: If you see something suspicious in your neighborhood, take down a license number. Keep a pencil handy.

Another lesson: Don't assume that a theft is just a matter of money. Sometimes what's stolen is more valuable than a flat-screen TV. It's the compassion of a stranger.

Contact Scott Herhold at 408-275-0917 or sherhold@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/scottherhold.

---