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Friday, August 14, 2009

Gruesome Discovery In Impounded Car

Here's the story from the Rockford Register Star:
SOUTH BELOIT — Janet Sherer expressed disgust Thursday in learning that the bones of two babies were concealed in a vehicle her company towed a year ago and kept impounded. The fact that the babies may belong to Katie Stockton, who was arrested and charged with murder last week in connection with the death of another child, made her “sick.”

“This is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard of in my life,” said Sherer, co-owner of Ace Towing in Beloit, Wis. “It’s enough to make you want to throw up.”

Baby Crystal is the girl who was born alive but left to die in frigid cold weather in December 2004. The baby was found dead in a discarded plastic bag left along the side of a rural road.

The sad story of Baby Crystal and her mother turned bizarre Wednesday when the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and state’s attorney’s office learned that a vehicle that belonged to Stockton was being kept in an Ace Towing vehicle storage lot at 127 Blackhawk Blvd. in South Beloit.

Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies found the 1993 Saturn, inspected the trunk and made the gruesome discovery. The Sheriff’s Department took possession of the vehicle and is holding it an undisclosed location as evidence.

Sherer said the car was stored in an outdoor lot near a rear fence. She even recalled her husband making a comment to her about the condition of the car.

“He said, ‘Jan, that car smells funny.’“

Sherer said the law does not allow tow companies to enter towed vehicles.

“We’re not allowed to go through the car, the trunk, the glove compartment. It would be like someone going through your house without you knowing it. We can only hook it, tow it and lock it up.”

Sherer also said she remembers Stockton calling her husband several weeks later in an attempt to retrieve her car.

“She called once and wanted to make a deal with my husband. He went down to the impound and waited and waited, but she never showed up.”

Ace Towing charges a $30-a-day storage fee, which is on top of the $100 initial towing charge.

South Beloit police came into possession of the vehicle on Aug. 15, 2008. Winnebago County Court records showed officer Dan Kutz pulled Stockton over at 3:31 p.m. in the 400 block of Gardner Street and arrested her on charges of driving on a suspended license and registration.

Police Chief Tom Fearn said Stockton was taken to the Winnebago County Jail, and her car was impounded.

Fearn said only clothing and miscellaneous items were taken from the vehicle at the time. He said the trunk and glove compartment were not checked, which is normal for the charges she faced.

“You have no reason to do that,” Fearn said. “At that time she wasn’t even a suspect (in Baby Crystal’s death). She wasn’t even flying on the radar.”

Fearn went on to say his department follows the state statute guidelines for impounding vehicles.

“We do a cursory examination,” he said. “We ask the owner if anything valuable needs to be removed, but in most cases, I don’t mean for this to sound wrong, but it’s just stuff.”

Mayor Randy Kirichkow said he is embarrassed by the Police Department’s failure to properly search the car.

“It’s extremely disappointing to say the least and embarrassing,” he said. “I haven’t talked to the officer involved. I haven’t seen the police report. But, hopefully, there’s a valuable lesson learned here.

“It’s one thing if you do a traffic stop and do a citation and don’t search it, but from what I understand there’s supposed to be pictures taken and everything inside the vehicle is supposed to inventoried. If the tow company were to tamper with the vehicle, we would have that information.”

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