Ashes of 6-year-old boy who died of cancer held for $5,000 ransom

A Northern California family has been reunited with their son, whose ashes were stolen by thieves, and held for a $5,000 ransom.

"It's like we just lost Ryan all over again, because that's the only thing we had left of him," his dad, Joshua Wagner, told "I'm so glad I got my son back. I was prepared to do anything I possibly could to get him back."

Little Ryan was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 when his mom brought him to the hospital for an abnormal cough. After doctors discovered a tumor in the middle of his chest, Ryan received chemotherapy treatments for 10 months, but he succumbed to the disease in 2011. Ryan was 6 years old.

"He passed away in our arms," Wagner said. "We kind of held him for a couple hours. The last time we saw Ryan was the day after we had to go down to the morgue, and look at him lying on the table."

The family had their son cremated, and scattered some of his ashes on his favorite beach in Hawaii, where they were living at the time.

They saved the other portion of his ashes in an urn that they brought with them on their move to Northern California. When the family traveled to Hawaii in December, where they hold an annual music fundraiser for children with cancer in Ryan's honor, they left the urn in a safe.

When they returned a week and a half later, they discovered the house was broken into, and the safe was stolen.

"The whole safe was gone. It was just ripped out of the floor," Wagner said. "I just flipped out. I just lost it. When I told [my wife] and the boys, they all just started screaming and crying."

Wagner said their family believed they know who had stolen the safe, and set up a Facebook page offering a reward for the safe return of the ashes.

"Eventually [we] offered a $2,000 reward, then bumped it up to $5,000," he said. "I can't afford that, but I'll do whatever I can do to get my son back."

About a month later, lawyer Kathleen Bryson reached out, and said her client knows the person in possession of the ashes.

She added that the person who had the ashes wanted the reward, or they would dump the ashes.

"The lawyer asked for $5,000. My brother gave it to her, and then she took off," Wagner said. "About 45 minutes later [she] came back with my son's ashes."

He said Bryson then told them she was given a $500 fee for the exchange, but returned the $500 to Wagner.

"I did not think it was right to profit from their pain," Bryson told

Bryson also told her client did not take a share of the $5,000 reward.

While Wagner said his family is thrilled to be reunited with their late son, he will not give up until whoever stole the ashes is brought to justice.

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office told while there are no arrests yet, they are still actively investigating the case.

The family has also started a YouCaring page to replace the ransom money.