What was supposed to be a day of closure for Melvin Hayes turned out to be another chapter of grief Thursday when his car was stolen at an Elk Grove carwash -- with his wife's ashes still in the backseat.

Hayes, 80, is now more concerned about getting his wife's ashes back than he is the red 2011 Ford Fusion.

“Someone could dump my wife’s ashes in the Sacramento River, or dumpster, or down the sewer,” he told CBS Sacramento. “I don’t want that to happen to my wife’s ashes.”

Hayes and his wife, Annamarie, would have celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary in January. She died on Nov. 22.

Hayes had been on his way to get his wife's ashes blessed when he pulled into the Premier Car Wash on Orchard Loop Drive and Power Inn Road in Elk Grove, just south of Sacramento. While waiting for his car, a woman started up a conversation, Fox 40 reported. A carwash attendant who mistakenly thought the two were together then apparently released the car to her.

It wasn't until Hayes went to check on the status of his car that he discovered the woman had driven off with his car and his wife's ashes.

His red Ford Fusion has the California license plate number 6ROC306. Anyone with information about where the car or urn are was asked to call the California Highway Patrol at (916) 681-2300.

Meanwhile, all Hayes can do it wait.

“There can’t be closure when I don’t know where her ashes are, or if she’s properly buried,” he told CBS.

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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