HOUSTON – If there's one thing this story should teach us, it's this: If you had any plans to mess with the Houston bike community, don't.
"This is, like, my life," said Madeleine Pelzel, a junior architecture student at Rice University, referring to her custom-made bike.
"I've been riding with this bike since the beginning of 2014," she said. "I've gone on tours with it, I've raced it, I've done triathlons on it (and) I used to get around campus."
Her bike is always by her side, except on April 1.
After participating in a Rice University event called Beer Bike,' when she locked her bike on a rack outside her dorm room.
"I was going up to my room to grab some things and came back down and the bike had been stolen," Pelzel said.
As we're accustomed to seeing nowadays, Pelzel turned to Facebook, calling on the Houston bike community to assemble.
"It was this incredible outpouring," she said. "I was waking up to new Facebook messages everyday with people that were eager to help me get back on a bike."
Much to her surprise, within 20 days someone found the bike on an app called "Offer Up" and messaged her.
Rice University police say the suspect had sold it for $80.
"It's a custom bike so you can't put a for sure price tag on it but around $6000," Pelzel said.
Investigators tracked down the buyer and set up sting to nab their suspect.
It turns out the 17-year-old suspect was already on police's radar from an April 10 incident where he was issued a 'no trespass warning,' for being on campus, investigators said.
At the time of the sting, the suspect was busy selling other stolen bikes and happened to sell Pelzel's to a random person. That person, she said, gave up the bike with no issues.
"The morning that the bike got found, there was a fund that started to help me buy a new one so it's like good karma paying off all the way around," Pelzel said.
Charges haven't officially been filed on the suspect but police said he will likely face a state jail felony given the value of Pelzel's bike. He could face up to two years in jail.
That man is also accused of stealing the bike police discovered in the sting from Rice and another bike from Houston Methodist Hospital, investigators said.
Now that she has her bike back, Pelzel is riding for a good cause. She will help building affordable housing for those that need it while she bikes down the east coast from Maine to New York.
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