SHELBY, N.C. -- A grandmother in Shelby is desperate to get her memories back after a thief robbed her while praying.

The thief approached the victim at Ascension Lutheran Church and asked her to pray with her. The robber then tried to steal her purse. When the 78-year-old victim tried to get her purse back, the thief bit her and ran off.

“I was hollering and saying 'help help, I'm being robbed, help help,'” recalled the victim, who asked not to be identified. “The lady gets out of her car, she says can you help me? Will you say a prayer with me please? So I say okay.”

When the two held hands, praying, things took a violent turn.

“As I'm saying it, she's grabbing my purse with her right hand, pulling on it. And I'm pulling back. So then, she decides she's gonna bite me.”

The bite was so bad, she had to be hospitalized. Her blood pressure skyrocketed above 200.

“You think that's the thing to do, maybe she really needed a prayer,” she said.

Her wallet, insurance, medication and keys were all stolen.

And a small camera, the worst loss of all.

“I just got a brand new camera,” she said. “My son bought it for me. It has a picture of me and my husband.”

It wasn't just any picture. It is the last one she and her husband of 40 years took together before he died, not long ago.

It was her only copy.

Her hand will heal. The fear will subside. Credit cards will be replaced.

But that photo, that final memory, can never be.

“Why? Why?” she said. “If you needed a dollar or two I would have been more than happy to give it you. You didn't have to take everything.”

The victim described the thief as a black woman, possibly in her late 20s, around 5-foot-5. She was in a white mustang with a stripe.

If you have any information you think can help, you are asked to call Crime stoppers or the Shelby police department at 704-484-6845.