Police department restructuring; tale of missing Cadillac told

Published 10:55 pm Monday, June 15, 2009

Selma City Council members still seemed confused over what happened to a 1991 Cadillac Brougham taken during a 2006 narcotics raid.

Council members received a summary of an investigation into the case, but still seemed confused. The report places the blame on a shift in experienced personnel in the past, causing a lack of supervision to maintaining proper paperwork on seized property. The police department is restructuring its Investigations Divisions with stricter guidelines and policies.

“They don’t know what happened,” said Council member Cecil Williamson, who has pushed the issues of missing cars and evidence money for months. “They simply don’t know what happened.”

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The missing Cadillac is the latest in several instances of cars confiscated by the Selma Police Department under former police chief Jimmy Martin and not returned to their rightful owners.

The investigative report given recently to the city council and obtained by The Selma Times-Journal says the vehicle was towed on Oct. 25, 2006, from Travelers Inn after officers executed a narcotics search warrant on a room occupied by Veronica Barron and Richard Dudley.

Dudley was the focus of the investigation. He was arrested and the Cadillac was towed by Chandler’s Towing to the police department. Dudley was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana. Barron was not charged, according to the report. The vehicle was held for about a month. It was to be returned to the owner. The towing fee was paid to Chandler’s Towing.

“It is unknown if Veronica Barron came to the police department and spoke with anyone regarding the return of the vehicle,” the report states. “It is also unknown if Veronica Barron ever went to Chandler Towing and inquired about getting the car back and if, in fact, she ever did get the car returned to her.”

In April, Barron read about other cars reported missing. She came to the police department to ask about her car.

“Veronica’s statement was that ‘her mother told her to come up here and find out about her car and see if she could get paid for her car,’” the report says.

An officer asked her if she had tried to locate the car prior to April. Barron told the officer she had spoken with another officer, but didn’t say if anything came out of the conversation. She said she had returned to the police department in 2007, but couldn’t remember with whom she spoke at the time.

The officer asked about Dudley, who walked into the room about the same time. Dudley said he could not recall who he and Barron had talked to about the car. Dudley said they had driven by for about a month in 2006 and after a month they did not see the car.

Neither Dudley nor Barron could tell authorities why they had waited three years to sk about the car.

The VIN number of the Cadillac showed Barron as the last registered owner. No new owner was listed. Chandler’s Towing showed only where the car was towed from Traveler’s Inn in 2006 and no more information.

After running all the information, authorities attempted to get in touch with Barron, but could not find her. She no longer lived at the Traveler’s Inn. She was not at the address on her driver’s license.

“Two separate phone numbers and three different addresses have been checked but there has been no contact with Veronica Barron,” the report states.

Authorities also surmised that Chandler Towing never picked up the car from the police department, but the report says the investigation cannot determine if another towing company moved the car out of the alley or if the vehicle was signed over to the owner by the officer working the case.

Police officers checked all the towing companies in Selma to see if they have any record of towing the vehicle from the police department.

“No wrecker company has been able to provide any written information that suggests they picked the vehicle up from the police department or released the vehicle to the owner,” the report states.

There is no paperwork to follow the vehicle. The keys to the Cadillac can’t be found.

“A lack of experienced supervision and a breakdown in the paperwork were reasons this property was not maintained properly,” the report states. “The keys to the vehicle cannot be found, so it cannot be determined if the keys and vehicle were returned to the owner, or if the keys were passed on to another towing company if they were called to come and move the car.”