Police Warn Don't Take Chances Selling Through the Classifieds

Thursday, December 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

One key piece of evidence in the Laci Hill case is the classified ad she placed in the newspaper in order to sell a pool table. Consumer 6 takes a closer look at the potential danger that may be lurking when people respond to your ad.

Hundreds of people place ads each week to sell household items. That's exactly what Laci Hill and her husband did to sell a pool table. Police say Hill was home alone on December 23rd, waiting for a man to come look at the table. She disappeared and was found dead six days later. "The problem is that people put themselves in risky situations after they place an ad,” explained Tulsa police detective Andy Phillips. “They want to sell something so bad they take chances."

Phillips says the most common crime is theft. Kidnapping and murder are rare. But it has happened before in Tulsa. In 1981, 19-year-old Denise Palmer put an ad in the paper to sell her wedding dress. Police say a man responded to the ad. She met him alone at her home, where he sexually assaulted and strangled her. Detectives say these cases are uncommon. "Locally, it's rare,” Phillips said. “Nationally, there's a sprinkling of those types of cases throughout the country."

The News on Six asked one of our photographers to call six classified ads at random to see if he could get a home address. Each time, the photographer dialed a number and said to the person answering the phone, "Hi, my name is Scott Brooks. I was calling in reference to your beanie babies. My daughter's pretty interested in them and I was wondering if I could come by and take a look at them soon." Three of the women at the six numbers he called gave him their home address and directions on how to get there.

We called the manager of the Tulsa World's classified ads division. He says their sales reps don't tell people what to put in an ad or what to leave out. And the paper does not give any type of warning. The paper doesn't have a disclaimer, but the manager said that might not be a bad idea.

Police say it is a bad idea to invite a stranger to your home. "Give out a work number or pager number,” Phillips noted. “They can call you at work and you can get the name and address of person. That way you can call them back and verify that they're on the up and up." And it might be a good idea to follow the advice that you learned as a child. Never let any stranger in your home when you're alone.