Metro Detroit Family whose house exploded in 2017 reunited with loved one’s stolen war medals

Paperwork, photo ID and various medals were given back to the family

A house explosion that changed an Oakland County family's life a couple of years ago. Fast forward five years later and the family reunites with war medals that are dear to their hearts.

ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich. – One local family has finally taken possession of their loved one’s war medals after they were stolen following a devastating fire.

It was already a life-changing tragedy for Angelyn Smith losing her parents, Kathy and Bruce Dominguez, in a home explosion that rocked Orion Township back in 2017.

Related: 2 dead after house explosion in Orion Township

“While the house was practically on fire, people were going through and taking things,” Smith recalled.

It was more heartbreaking to find out that looters were responsible for taking any valuables that were left in the remains.

“They had gone through three times, we think. We weren’t sure what was gone because the house was completely ransacked,” Smith added.

Medals belonging to Bruce, a war hero, were among the man items taken. Fast forward nearly five years later, investigators with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department were able to determine the medals were stolen by a man already in custody on unrelated charges. His girlfriend ended up handing them all over.

“She turned this stuff over saying, you know, obviously this stuff doesn’t belong to him,” said Detective Paul Buhl with the Oakland County Sheriff’s department.

The recovery led to an unexpected phone call and reunion.

“He said we have his purple heart. We have his combat medal. We have paperwork and a photo ID of when he was discharged,” explained Smith.

Smith and other family members had to drive from Indiana to pick up what belonged to her father. It was a trip well worth it for both her and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.

Read more: Deadly Orion Township house explosion: ‘It’s a real mystery’

“It was another day at work for me until I saw the expression on her face,” Detective Buhl added.

The military family can now rest knowing they’ve been reunited with their loved one’s legacy.

“A thing that we didn’t know as out in the world. We’re just so thankful to have it. I’m a veteran and my sister is a veteran and it’s so meaningful to us,” said Smith.

About the Authors:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital News Editor and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.