The suitcase was discovered about seven years ago by Hope Schwab's friend. The friend gave it to Schwab's mother, who eventually handed it down to her.
The suitcase was full of historic black & white photos from the early 20th century.
"There's service men and women [in the pictures]," Schwab said. "Some are from 1904, others are from 1902."
Most of the pictures are labeled "Galesburg, Illinois". Schwab wondered how they ended up in a dumpster in Colorado.
"Where did these come from?" she asked.
The only clue was a battered envelope with an Arvada address and the name R. Garrett printed on them. The same address where Ronald Garrett grew up as a kid.
Garrett took a look at some of the pictures and identified some of his family members in them. However, Ronald said the pictures didn't belong to him. Instead, they belonged to his step-father Robert.
"He's from Galesburg, Illinois," Garrett said. "It's the area where he was from and of course, he was in the war."
Ronald hasn't talked to his step-father in more than two decades.
"He had a problem and he got arrested for it," Garret said.
Back in the early 90s, Robert Garrett was arrested for sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy.
"I was in shock. I was a kid," Garrett said.
Ronald says his step-dad never tried anything on him or his siblings, but once the news broke most of his family cut ties with Robert.
"From then on I had never seen him," Garrett said.
That would explain why the suitcase was found in a trash bin.
"We eventually had to get everything out of the house. And we weren't going to keep everything," Garret said.
Ronald says he didn't toss it, but he wouldn't be surprised if one of his other siblings did.
Robert Garrett was released from prison in 2002 for good behavior. He's almost 90 now.
9NEWS Reporter Kevin Torres spoke with Robert in person. He opted to not be a part of this story, but told Kevin about his criminal past.
He also told Kevin he served in World War II and the Korean War, and took a lot of those photos. Others were given to him by family members.
Hope Schwab plans to give the photos to Ronald Garrett.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)