Reading Between the Lines

Read Between the Lines Story #1

Last week, I skimmed a few stories on the sad missing person case of Utah mother Susan Powell.

Josh Powell, her husband, reportedly last saw her at home on December 7, 2009, after he left with his young sons (ages 4 and 2) to go camping.

At 12:30 am.

With the weather below freezing.

This related Associate Press story caught my attention:

SALT LAKE CITY — Police said Tuesday that they want to question the husband of a missing Utah woman about a car he allegedly rented that was driven hundreds of miles after his wife's disappearance.

"It was rented in Joshua Powell's name, and there were several hundred miles put on it," West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan said. "The company that rents the car has said there is no stored GPS data that would indicate where it was taken..."

McLachlan said Joshua Powell rented the car during the 24-hour period that his van was in police custody, about two days after his wife was reported missing...
Here is my translation of what the Captain wanted to say:

"The chief sent me here to make statements to the press because he is busy punching holes in walls. He is trying to determine how the surveillance system we had to monitor Mr. Powell, as a person of great interest in the case of his missing wife, failed so miserably--since we now realize that he traveled hundreds of miles unmonitored while our crime scene geeks were tearing apart the family van looking for clues."


Read Between the Lines Story #2

The following crime item resides in a password-protected news database, so I am unable to link it:

An alert Department of Transportation manager noticed suspicious activity at Green's Market early Sunday, so he decided to follow three young men he spotted hurrying out of the store, he says.

Police eventually met up with the three suspects, and the trio is now accused of burglary.

The witness said he would have regretted not taking action if he had read in the newspaper the next day the store had been broken into.

He was driving while supervising snow-removal work for the county just after 2 a.m. Sunday when he noticed people leaving the store.

Here's his account of what happened:

The people leaving the market were moving quickly and carrying something.

"It just didn't seem right" for 2 a.m., he said.

He realized he may have stumbled onto a burglary, and he considered what he should do.

The witness thought he could turn around to try and get a license-plate number, or just keep going.

But if he kept going and he read the next day that the store had been burglarized, he'd feel bad about missing a chance to help catch the culprits.

As he turned around, three people got into a Jeep and pulled away without the lights on, which confirmed his suspicions

As the Jeep turned onto a local road, the civilian was on his cell phone with a State Police dispatcher who said there were no troopers available at that moment.

The civilian kept following, trying to keep up with the fast-moving Jeep in snowy conditions and get close enough to at least get the plate number.

The Jeep then turned onto the Interstate.

In the meantime, a State Police unit cleared a call near the incident and the dispatcher said troopers would wait at the next exit for the Jeep.

The Jeep took the exit and police pulled it over, taking the three occupants into custody.

Troopers asked the witness to check Green's for signs of a break-in.

He returned and found the front door smashed in and broken glass on the sidewalk and inside the store...
My translation:

The call-taker who initially spoke to the transportation manager at the 911 Center coded the incident as a suspicious vehicle instead of a burglary-in-progress. Upon seeing the non-emergency 'suspicious vehicle' call pending, the dispatcher decided to hold the call because their were no police units in service.*

It was not until the witness continued to chase the suspects and informing the operator by phone of their location, and the burglars continue to flee at a high rate of speed with no headlights, that the dispatcher realized that this needed a higher priority code.

He/she then appealed for an officer to become available or the dispatcher would find another agency to take the hot call.

An A+ to the witness who single-handedly made this felony case for authorities (even having to return to the market to verify that there was entry).

As a citizen, there is nothing wrong with being persistent. Even when someone on the phone tells you there are no police units available to help.

*Note: I am not blaming anyone for the way this scenario played out. Police officers get busy at scenes. Call-takers make judgments on how to code calls. Dispatchers send units to priority incidents first. Just glad the citizen following the burglars refused to give-up.


Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I wondered if you were going to mention the Powell case! Something fishy going on.

As to the 'between the lines' there, I just bet.

I love the second tale. A+ is right! And I love to learn the discretionary powers/triage that each stakeholder had. But oh, they must have been WAY busy if the guy had to check the store too.

Time to reallocate some tax dollars!

What a fun post-and, educational!

Ann T.

Tamika: said...

Thanks for highlighting some interesting news! I don't give enough attention to them on my own.

Seems like a lot of news can be found in between the lines.

Slamdunk said...

I appreciate the feedback.

@ Ann T.: On the reallocating tax dollars comment--thanks, it gave me an idea for a future post.

Javajune said...

I hope you had a wonderful holiday. I can't believe the husband in the Powell case thought he could just rent a car and drive thousands of miles without raising suspicions. I also can't believe the police haven't come up with anything solid to hold him on.
The second story was great and I love the way you read between the lines for us. Keep it up!
Happy New year!

Holly said...

Do the people who do these things really think they are going to get away with it...especially when they rent cars and drive for hundreds of miles late at night..whatever!

Hats off to the man/woman who stuck with the burglary and helped catch them... We need more people like that!

mrs. fuzz said...

I am obsessed with the Susan Powell case. I really hope we find out what happened to her. Her husband does seem shady.

Good post.

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