Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wrecker operator charged
By SUE WATSON
A man attempting to repossess a vehicle with a wrecker, without the owner’s knowledge, has been charged with aggravated assault and leaving the scene after the owner was seriously injured during the incident, according to sheriff Kenny Dickerson.
James Charles Smith, 31, of the 6800 block of Bellemead Road, Horn Lake, was arrested by Olive Branch police after the sheriff’s office sent out a BOLO (be on the lookout) following the removal of the victim’s 1992 Cadillac from his driveway at Tyro Road near the Marshall/Tate county line, Dickerson said.
He said Smith went to Lee Vi Cox’s residence on Tyro Road about 2 a.m. Thursday, July 21, and had hooked the wrecker up to Cox’s vehicle. When Smith was in the process of leaving the premises, Cox was awakened by the noise and went outside attempting to get Smith’s attention as he proceeded down the driveway with the Cadillac. During the process Cox was knocked to the ground and dragged several feet down the driveway, receiving injuries to his leg, arms, shoulder and head area.
Dickerson said Cox was transported to the Baptist DeSoto Hospital where he was treated for injuries and later released.
Smith was transported to the Marshall County Jail where he was charged with aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an accident. Smith was later arraigned and remains in jail under a $200,000 bond, Dickerson said.
He said Cox has to return to the hospital for continued treatment of his head and eye area.
Dickerson said a way to repossess a vehicle under Mississippi law is for the lender to obtain a Writ of Replevin from either the Justice Court or Circuit Court, depending on the value of the vehicle. If a writ is granted, the buyer can release the vehicle peacefully. Or the owner can request that a law officer send a wrecker and bring the vehicle in to be impounded at the sheriff's department until a court hearing can be held to determine whether or not the buyer is in arrears on his/her vehicle payment. The person who wants to answer a replevin can get a bond until the replevin can be answered in court.
He said this method is slower than sending a wrecker out to take a vehicle from a parking lot or a person’s drive, but it is much safer.
“This is the best way to do it without risk of harm,” Dickerson said. “People like to take shortcuts instead of going through the (legal) process. But sometimes the finance company can be in error. It is better to go the replevin route. The finance company needs to ask for a replevin rather than get a tow company to pick up a vehicle in a parking lot or at a home.
“Then sometimes we get a call from an owner that their car has been stolen, when they have not been notified their car is under repossession,” he said.
Both the tow truck and the Cadillac were impounded and are being searched for evidence, the sheriff said.
He said it is also not uncommon for thieves to use a wrecker to steal a vehicle.
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