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Vicki Swenson and her daughter, Lynda, thanked Thomas Mount at their St. Paul home Monday for finding and returning a device Lynda needs to communicate.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Lynda Swenson, 38, lost her ability to speak at age 6 when she was crushed in a car accident. She communicates by touching buttons on a Touch Talker.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Handicapped St. Paul woman's only voice stolen and found

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG
  • Star Tribune
  • February 13, 2012 - 7:38 PM

A thief stole Lynda Swenson's voice Friday. On Monday, it was returned by Thomas Mount, who found it a few blocks away.

"We're so excited to get it," said Lynda's mother, Frances "Vicki" Swenson.

Lynda Swenson, 38, suffered a severe head injury at age 6 when she was crushed under the dash of her babysitter's car. She hasn't been able to speak since. A computerized device that voices her thoughts at the push of a button connects her to the rest of the world.

St. Paul police said a thief swiped Lynda's device, worth $7,800, about 9 a.m. Friday in the 1600 block of Birmingham Street.

Swenson said Mount realized who owned the machine, a Touch Talker DynaVox, when his wife turned it on and played with the buttons. One button says, "Hi, my name is Lynda Swenson." Another gives Lynda's address -- her mother's home.

Vicki Swenson, 71, had carried the heavy device to the sidewalk Friday before bringing Lynda out to wait for the van that takes her to special education classes each weekday. She set the device down and went back to get Lynda, who has mobility issues.

When they got outside, Swenson realized someone had taken off with the large blue Under Armour duffle bag containing the device.

"My heart just sank," Swenson said. "[Lynda] was very upset. She uses that every day."

Swenson said she believes the thief or thieves were probably drawn to the bag without knowing its contents. The bag and its other contents -- some clothes, a lunch and a purse with $10 -- remain missing.

Lynda began using a computerized device to talk about a year after her injury in 1979. She can communicate by making a limited number of sounds, but she can't express complete thoughts and sentences without the Touch Talker.

The device allows her to introduce herself to others, talk about her interests, such as beading, or ask to watch TV, among other things.

The past few days were frustrating for Lynda, who lit up when the device was returned. She demonstrated the Touch Talker to Mount. "I like music," she said.

"She was very happy," Swenson said. "You could see it on her face."

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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