City Of Tulsa Mistakenly Sells Stolen Van Recovered In Homicide Investigation

Tuesday, August 30th 2011, 7:41 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- A Fort Gibson man is waiting on his stolen van to be returned to him after it was recovered more than 2 years ago.

The stolen van was used as the getaway vehicle in the highly publicized murder of TU Hall of Famer Neal Sweeney.

The owner was more than willing to wait while police processed it for evidence, but it turns out, something much more than that happened to it.

Marvin Stewart runs a car lot in his retirement. In August of 2008, he bought three vans. He took one to a detail shop a week later and it was stolen, before the new title was even mailed to him.

Six months later, he saw it on the news, recovered as the getaway vehicle in a homicide case.

"Detectives told me at that time, we'd like to have it 3 to 4 days and I said, ‘that's fine, no rush, do what you need to do and when you're done, I'll come pick it up,'" Stewart said.

After a few weeks, he began calling. He's called at least twice a month for three years. Each time, he says he got a different person but always the same story.

"They've been telling me all the time, we need more photos. How many photos and fingerprints can you take?" he asked.

Finally, in February of this year, he met with Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris and asked when he could have it back.

"He said, 'Let me make a call' and came back and said they need a few more prints and pictures. They've had the van for two years. I said okay. He said, 'I'll get it released to you as quick as I can,'" Stewart said.

Three months later, he says Harris called him and said, 'You can have your van back.' Stewart drove to Tulsa, went to the police station and got the surprise of his life.

"He said, 'Mr. Stewart, we have some bad news, very shocking news, your van was sold a year ago.'  That's great," Stewart said.

It was sold for $650 by Storey Wrecker where it was being stored. The city says an auto theft hold was dropped, a homicide hold was supposed to be added, but wasn't.

Storey did what it's allowed to do;  it notified the owner on the title, which was the group who'd sold it to Marvin, so Storey sold it for the storage fees.

"I know they're overwhelmed by the heavy workload but at the same time, it's like the left arm doesn't know what the right arm is doing and I'm caught up in the middle of it," Stewart said.

Stewart has filled out the paperwork to have the city reimburse him. He says the NADA value is $6,200.

"I'm not wanting a bunch of money, just compensated for what I think is fair," Stewart said.

Stewart says the police and DA seemed as shocked as he was. City legal said the van was processed already, so selling it didn't affect the case.

The city has 90 days to respond to Marvin's paperwork and those 90 days are up next month.