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Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006 04:06 pm

First anniversary

Their wedding presents were pilfered, but the best gift is on the way

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My first column of 2006 was about a New Year’s Eve wedding marred by a thief who filched a fistful of cards from the gift table at the happy couple’s reception. What made this petty thievery especially newsworthy wasn’t the value of the cards — which, it turns out, contained almost $1,000 in cash and retail credit — but the juice on the guest list. As one attendee told me, “It was pretty much a who’s who of the justice system”: cops, prosecutors, judges, and federal law enforcement agents. They were all celebrating the blessed union of Sangamon County first assistant state’s attorney Steve Weinhoeft and his bride, Amy Nash, daughter of retired FBI agent Steve Nash.

Biggest problem for me writing that column was finding an adjective that might accurately convey the magnitude of this criminal faux pas. I mean, we’re not allowed to use expletives in this paper. I ended up calling this little looting something lame like “foolish on a scale that’s difficult to fathom” [see “The wedding crasher,” Jan. 19].

Next biggest problem after the column was published was getting Weinhoeft to go on the record about the progress of the case. He kept saying something about ethics and staying out of it and how Amy was handling everything anyway. But Amy, who has a much lower-profile job simply helping the sick and injured regain their lives (she’s an occupational therapist at a local hospital), was strangely disinclined to talk to the media. I assured her that no one but my mother reads my column, and she reluctantly agreed to talk to me.

First thing I wanted to know, as a once-upon-a-time bride myself, was how the heck she handled the whole thank-you-note thing. How do you write notes for gifts you that you never receive, especially when they’re from powerful people you can’t honk off? Does Emily Post cover this scenario in her etiquette book?

Well, no.

“That was a very awkward situation. I would not wish that upon anyone,” Amy said.

She and Steve came up with a solution Miss Manners might have approved. They typed a letter explaining that there had been a theft at the reception and asking guests to contact the couple “if your gift is not mentioned within this card.” Then they folded a copy of the typed letter into each handwritten thank-you card. If they had received a gift from the guest, they wrote Thank you for the beautiful breadbasket or whatever. If they had not, they wrote something more generic, like Thank you for attending our wedding.

“We were trying to think of a good way to go about making sure we captured every single gift that had been stolen,” Amy says.

Eventually, the tally reached almost $1,000 — none of which has yet been returned to the couple. “Nor have our guests received a penny back,” Amy says.

A suspect has been charged with theft over $300, a class 3 felony. A former bellman at the downtown hotel that hosted the reception, he was in charge of transporting the wedding gifts to a secure location after the reception. Somewhere between the ballroom and the maid of honor’s hotel room, he allegedly reached into a decorative hurricane lamp and helped himself to a handful or two of cards.

“He was very chatty, a very personable, kind of jolly guy,” Amy says, quoting friends and relatives who came into contact with this bellman.

He has pleaded not guilty to this charge and a similar charge in Logan County. The cases should be resolved in February.

In other words, the Nash/Weinhoeft juice apparently hasn’t made the wheels of justice grind any faster or any differently for them than for anybody else.

“Do I feel like I got special treatment? No,” Amy says.

And she’s not asking for any. She’s focused on the meaning of the event, rather than the details.

“Our wedding was wonderful. We’re just grateful for what we have and how it turned out,” she says. “It was about getting married and spending the rest of our lives together. It was about being with friends and family. It was not about gifts and money.”

She does sound a wee bit peeved, however, that the hotel has never even attempted to contact her to apologize for or even acknowledge this “unfortunate event.” She says she knows her friends and family will choose a different venue for her baby shower.

That’s right — there’s a little Weinhoeft on the way.

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.

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