by Ivan Foley
A reader who had seen the front page of last week’s Landmark thought she recognized the travel-trailer pictured under the headline “Strange scene near creek.”
The story detailed how an SUV pulling a travel trailer sat near the bank of a creek behind Kossen Body Shop in a wooded area about 40-50 yards off the road and hidden from view from the streets.
Platte City police had told The Landmark they believed that the SUV had mechanical trouble coming down a hill and ended up on the edge of the creek.
But Landmark photos from the scene seemed to indicate there may be more to it than that. The awning of the travel trailer was in a set position. At the rear of the travel trailer, accessories such as an inflatable mattress were hanging from the top rear corner of the camper, not likely to have ended up there in a traffic accident.
Early Tuesday afternoon of this week, The Landmark received an email from a resident of Kansas City in Platte County who lives near Green Hills Road and N. Platte Purchase Drive.
“I think that camper you wrote about last week is the one that was stolen from us about 10 days ago. My sister in law sent a photo of The Landmark front page but I cannot see the end of the story. Is it online somewhere?”
The newspaper then emailed to the woman a link and the newspaper’s photos of the travel-trailer taken last week.
“Yes, my gut tells me it’s our stolen camper,” the woman wrote in her next email, saying that her husband had just left a voicemail with Platte City police.
“I feel so violated and hope the person who stole it gets in trouble. Thank you for doing the story!”
The Landmark also reported the woman’s suspicions to Platte City police via email, and return calls from Chief Carl Mitchell and Lt. Al Devalkenaere followed.
By late in
the day Tuesday, Devalkenaere confirmed the trailer was the one stolen from the property near Green Hills Road.
Devalkenaere said when Kansas City police took the family’s report on the stolen camper, there was a failure to get the stolen camper information entered into the computer system, so it did not show up as stolen when Platte City police ran the VIN/identifying information on it last week.
Platte City police have the travel trailer and the SUV that was found in front of it by the creek both impounded. Kansas City police were set to come up Wednesday and both agencies will go through the trailer.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, the crime victim emailed The Landmark: “The detective just called my husband and said it’s ours and it’s in a tow lot in Tracy. They’re going to see if they can get prints from the inside tomorrow. He said just because it was hooked up to that SUV that doesn’t automatically prove he stole it.”
Devalkenaere said a solid case can be made for the crime of tampering against the person of interest in the case, who police now believe is in Arizona. The person of interest, police said, has a relative in Platte City.
The couple who reside near Green Hills Road said they live on acreage and their travel trailer was parked near the end of their driveway. They were out of town on a cruise and a neighbor and a relative were keeping an eye on their property while they were gone.
The travel trailer was last seen by a relative on Saturday, July 14. The couple reported the missing item to Kansas City police on Monday, July 16 after they got back in town.
On Monday, July 16, Platte City police had received a report of an SUV and travel trailer near a creek at Second and Spring Street.
“A resident contacted us to say his brother had wrecked his SUV and his trailer in the woods behind
Kossen’s. We didn’t find it,” Devalkenaere said this week.
The next day, Tuesday, July 17, a city employee spotted the travel trailer, Devalkenaere said. That same day, The Landmark received word of an SUV travel trailer near the creek at Second and Spring near Kossen Body Shop. The vehicles were not visible from the roadway. A reporter walked through a clearing into the woods behind the body shop to the SUV and travel trailer about 40 or 50 yards from the street.
The Landmark spent several minutes taking photos of the travel-trailer from various angles, including of the camping gear hanging from the top rear corner. Eventually sounds were heard from the creek area, indicating the possible presence of a person or persons not far from the camper. As the photographer was leaving the area, a Platte City police officer was walking through the clearing and toward the scene, and in a quick conversation related that the police had received a report about it the day before.
That officer spent less than a minute near the SUV/camper before he exited through the clearing and chatted with a second officer at the parking lot for the body shop.
Later that day the newspaper followed up with a call to Devalkenaere, who indicated police believed the situation was a mechanical malfunction resulting in the SUV/travel trailer crashing at the edge of the creek.
As for the SUV pulling the camper, police say the SUV had been sold to the person of interest by his brother. The person of interest never titled the SUV, Devalkenaere said. The SUV remains impounded along with the camper.