When a woman’s SUV was stolen with her mother and granddaughter inside, OnStar helped save the day
It was partly sunny and 61 degrees in Wausau, Wis., on Oct. 5, 2017.
Janet Gosch, 54, and her 84-year-old mother, Jackie Soucek, had plans to hit a big sale and get some early Christmas shopping done. Gosch, who is retired, has custody of her 1‑year‑old granddaughter, Harmony. When the three left the house that afternoon in Gosch’s Chevrolet Traverse, they were enjoying a glorious autumn day.
“We were excited,” Gosch says. “My mom came over, I had Harmony all ready, and away we went.”
On the way to the store, Gosch thought of her son. They’d have to pass his workplace, and his lunch break was coming up. Gosch thought it’d be fun to surprise her son with a sandwich. She pulled into the parking lot of a sandwich shop.
She took her wallet and phone with her into the restaurant, and left the car running while her mom and granddaughter waited for her.
Standing at the cash register, Gosch casually looked to her left — out the store’s front window — at her car. She’ll never forget what she saw.
Gosch remembers seeing a man she had never seen before. Something about him was peculiar. Actually, the whole scene was odd. “That guy’s a little goofy looking,” Gosch remembers thinking. “And he’s got a car that looks just like mine.”
The man in the car locked eyes with her. And in that split second she realized that was, in fact, her car.
“I just started screaming,” Gosch says. “And I ran out of the store.”
Gosch yelled to the staff to call 911 and made it to the parking lot just in time to see her mom — hands pressed against the glass of the windshield — screaming for help. “And there’s nothing I could do,” she says.
Helpless, she watched the thief speed away. First, he narrowly missed a head-on collision with another vehicle, then almost crashed into a metal pole after overcorrecting the steering wheel. Gosch could see two things through the rear window — the top of the car seat in the back row, and her mother in the passenger seat, hitting the man behind the wheel.
Then the car turned a corner, and they were gone.
While Gosch was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher filing a police report, Jackie Soucek was pleading with the thief, telling him there was a baby in the car and that he should let them out.
“But he just kept telling her to shut up,” Gosch says. “She’s hitting him, she’s reaching for the keys, she’s yelling as loud as she could. But she said he was just so focused, it was like he couldn’t hear her.”
After driving several blocks, the thief finally pulled over to let Soucek and the baby out of the car.
“The car door was still open from her taking the car seat out and [the door] almost hit my mom in the back when he took off,” Gosch says.
Back in the parking lot, police were on the scene, and so was Gosch’s husband, Jeff.
Here’s another moment that Gosch says she’ll never forget.
“Officer Colt comes over and asks us, ‘Do you have OnStar?’” she says.
They did and, within moments, Gosch called OnStar and was speaking with a specially trained Advisor. After verifying Gosch’s account, the Advisor located their stolen Traverse.
“Then Colt tells us, ‘Your mother and the baby are fine. They’re only five blocks away and we’ll get you to them — OnStar just has a couple more questions for you,’” Gosch says.
While Gosch and Officer Colt were on the line with OnStar, the suspect was leading police on a high-speed chase across three counties.
“We’re getting moment-to-moment updates on what’s happening from OnStar,” Gosch says. “‘Okay, we’ve located your vehicle; we’re going to begin slowing the vehicle down* now; he’s stopped; the police are getting him out of the car now; they’re arresting him now; you’re going to be fine; your car is going to be fine.’”
Actual police dashcam footage of the chase.
Sometimes Gosch thinks about how differently things might’ve gone that day had she showed her mom the OnStar button and taught her about the service. So, after buying her next vehicle — equipped with OnStar, of course — that was the first thing she did after bringing it home.
“I showed her, just press the button and ask for help,” Gosch says. “They’ll talk you through the whole thing — they’ll take care of everything.”