AMMON, Idaho – An Idaho woman says she's recovered a stolen class ring that was purportedly spit up from a Kentucky catfish.
Lisa Peterson, an Ammon resident who moved from Ohio to Idaho several years ago, says her "Class of '84" ring from Franklin Heights High School in Columbus was stolen in 1991.
She'd given up on ever finding it — until several weeks ago, when she received a phone call from a Columbus television station that said the ring had been found by a fisherman angling for catfish in a murky pond in Augusta, Ky.
At first, she was skeptical, Peterson said.
"I thought, this is just an incredible fish story," she told the Post Register, about the initial phone call. "But they knew so much that I couldn't disbelieve it."
Wayne Nickerson, the fisherman, was collecting bait during a fishing excursion when he discovered the ring in the bottom of his live bait trap. The fishing area, called Long Stretch, is known for illicit dumping — in recent years, Nickerson says he's caught a sleeping bag in the fishing hole.
Nickerson, who now believes a catfish scavenging on the pond bottom spit the ring into his bait trap, says at first he was worried about finding the ring engraved "Lisa Marie Certain, Class of '84." He figured he might be dealing with a murder.
"I thought there may be a body," he said.
He called the local Augusta police chief, Col. Greg Cummins, to investigate. Cummins found Lisa Certain's picture at a Franklin Heights alumni Web site — along with the ominous description "missing in action." Classmates who were contacted said they hadn't heard from Lisa Certain in years.
Like Nickerson, Cummins feared the worst.
"I thought, the worst-case scenario is that there is a body with that ring," he said.
After the initial search turned up few leads, Cummins contacted television station WKRC in Cincinnati to broadcast Certain's photo. Finally, Columbus station WBNS-TV tracked down Certain to Ammon, where she's living under her married name, Peterson.
"The first person I heard from was the Channel 10 reporter from Columbus," Peterson said.
After the initial contact, she spoke with Cummins at the Augusta Police Department on May 2, and the ring was mailed to her to following day.
Cummins is relieved Peterson is safe — he was dreading the prospect of dragging the pond for a body. The only mystery left: How did the ring end up miles from Columbus, in a pond, 15 years after it was stolen?
"It could have been there for days, maybe years," Cummins said.
Meanwhile, Peterson, a big fan of TV crime shows such as "CSI," says she's tickled to have been part of a missing persons search but glad she never really went missing.
"I'm a scrapbooker by heart, sort of a family history person, so it's nice to have it back," she said of the ring. "My life is just very suburban. It was fun to be thought of as a 'missing person' for a little while."