Family Demands Compensation for Sale of Murdered Mother’s Car

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Here's a follow-up on a story Fox 4 Problem Solvers first told us about a few weeks ago.

The owner of a tow lot that sold a murdered woman's car instead of holding it for evidence in her murder says the family will have to go to court if they want money for their loss.

It was bad enough that their mother's car -- which was supposed to be held as evidence in her murder case -- disappeared from the tow lot  holding it for police. Now, the family's efforts to be paid for the value of the car keeps confronting new road blocks.

"We'll get a lawyer."

It didn't go well when the children of Christine Smith tried to get justice after their murdered mother's car disappeared from this Kansas City, Kansas tow lot.

"I guess Mr. Jared will play all the games he can play although he knows he was in the wrong," Domineak Davis-Banks said.

She's talking about Jared Innis, the owner of All-Star Towing and Recovery. Innis sold their mother's 2002 Ford Explorer at auction months before the Wyandotte County prosecutor's office had approved its release, and without notifying the next of kin: Mrs. Smith's children.

We first learned of the problem in August, when Domineak Banks told us of her shock to learn her mother's car was gone.

"I was going to get the vehicle back and give it to my children," Banks said.

Kansas City, Kansas police say they were also surprised the vehicle had been sold. But the owner of All-Star Towing disputes that. He says police approved the sale
Knowing it's too late to get the car back, Banks and her brothers would at least like it's cash value, which according to published blue books, that would be about $2,400. Police told FOX 4 Problem Solvers the tow lot owner had been ordered to work with the family to make sure they were fairly compensated for the car.

Owner Jared Innis wouldn't talk with our cameras, but he told the family that they would need to show proof of insurance on their mother's car and a valid title before he would give them any money. How would they have insurance and title on a car they never owned, and one the tow lot had sold months ago?

"We took time off work," Banks said. "We got birth certificates, death certificates. We have ownership of the vehicle."

Innis insists he needs more proof they are the rightful owners.

"There's nothing I can do because ownership has to be established by the courts," Banks said.

That means the family will need to hire an attorney and go to court to prove they are the rightful heirs to the car, something that would cost them more than the $2,400 the car is worth. The family had hoped that Kansas City, Kansas police might intervene on their behalf, but police said there was nothing they could do.

"I feel like they left us to fend for ourselves," Banks said.

And she's right.

FOX 4 Problem Solvers knew there had to be a solution. We talked to attorney John Benge about this mess. He said the tow lot could have easily paid the family for the car and had them sign a release stating that was the final claim without anybody having to go to court, but since the tow lot wants a judge's ruling, attorney Benge says he'll represent the family for free and help them get the money they are owed.

We want to thank attorney Benge for tackling this problem.

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