Former Alabama softball player pleads for the return of his grandmother’s stolen wedding ring

CULLMAN, Ala. (WIAT) – Danae Hays decided to call her grandmother Monday night to see her. The two have always been extremely close and have grown closer in some ways since her grandfather died about nine years ago. Danae called it a “special bond”.

“Since I was a child, my grandmother has been the epitome of the best grandmother a child could have,” she said. “When I was 8, she bought me, honestly, $500 worth of Pokemon cards because I was obsessed with Pokemon.”

But that routine call was anything but, and Danae knew right away that something was wrong.

Nearly a week before the call, Danae’s grandmother, Mary Jane, had gone shopping at the Walmart at exit 304 in Cullman. After checking in just after 2 p.m., Mary Jane drove home only to realize her load was a little lighter.

Her purse was nowhere to be found and after checking Walmart’s lost and found section, it was quickly determined that someone had taken the bag. But Mary Jane didn’t care about the bag, or the driver’s license, or the money inside. All he cared about was his now missing wedding ring.

Danae Hays has always had a particularly special bond with her grandfather Dan (left) and grandmother Mary Jane (centre). (Danae Hays)

At age 58, Mary Jane had never even thought of taking her ring off, according to Danae. Even after her husband’s death, she always kept him with her.

“As a kid, I always made fun of her because she had a print around her finger,” Danae said. “I was like, ‘Grandma, you have to take this thing off so your finger can breathe.’

Despite her granddaughter’s protests, Mary Jane never took it away, until days before it was stolen. She had been stung by a bee in her hand, which had significantly swollen her ring finger. A local jeweler eventually cut the bottom of the gold ring, allowing Mary Jane to remove the ring. She placed it in a plastic bag, then put it in her purse with the firm intention of putting the ring in its place once the swelling subsided.

Just days after that, however, Mary Jane spilled coffee in her purse, leaving her no choice but to hastily grab her phone, wallet and keys to make sure they weren’t. were not damaged. She then let the handbag dry. The ring remained inside the purse until the fateful afternoon at Walmart.

“It was like the perfect storm,” Danae said.

Mary Jane refrained from telling her granddaughter anything about the ring for several days so as not to upset Danae because of her relationship with her grandfather. But all Danae could think about was how much the ring meant to Mary Jane.

“That ring, for her, was the last physical thing she had to remind her of my grandfather every day,” Danae said. “It’s just a very emotionally charged and triggering thing because of the value that ring held for her.”

Now filled with emotion herself, Danae decided to use her voice to find the stolen jewel.

Danae, a former Alabama softball player who played a key role in Crimson Tide’s 2012 College World Series victory, has amassed a significant social media following in the years since leaving Tuscaloosa. She has over 130,000 followers on Instagram and 1.4 million followers on TikTok where she posts comedic videos of herself performing or playing her alter ego, a character named Sharon Jean, a caricature exaggeration of a southern woman.

Mary Jane Hays never took her wedding ring off for 58 years, even to the chagrin of her granddaughter. (Danae Hays)

Moments after the call with Mary Jane ended, Danae took to TikTok, where she posted a tearful video asking her followers to spread the word and help find the ring.

“I just felt like the least I could do to repay my grandmother for everything she did in my life was to talk about it and spark some news in the hope that someone shows up and drops everything,” she said.

The video has been viewed more than 209,000 times as of Tuesday afternoon, and several people living in the Cullman area have already reached out to help. One woman even volunteered to go “trash diving” at the Walmart location in hopes of finding the ring.

The outpouring of social media support struck a chord with Danae, but she says she’s not surprised and called it “the Alabama Way.”

“It’s really like you’re laughing at us, we’re going to come back and fight,” she said.

Danae says she and her grandmother just want the ring back – no questions asked. She said no charges would be filed if the person with the ring returned it on their own. Police told Danae that if the ring was pawned at a Cullman-area store, she would not be able to access it until 14 days after it was originally deposited.

Until then, Danae and Mary Jane hope the beloved object finds its way into their possession sooner rather than later.

“Just do what’s right,” Danae said. “You could have made a mistake. We all make mistakes…I hope if you see this story or find out about this story after knowing that it was you who made that mistake. I just hope you know it’s okay. You are forgiven. But just correct your mistake. Come back and do something positive and I promise you’ll make my grandma’s day.

If you have any information about the ring, you can contact Danae on Instagram or by emailing [email protected]

James B. Helms