Victims relate tales of thefts, recovering gutted wrecks


When Nancy Davis had her late-model Toyota stolen from in front of her Pasadena home last Labor Day weekend, it was bad enough.

But when the thief set it on fire and burned out the vehicle, that made matters much worse.

Now, Davis has a new car. The vehicle has two alarm systems and bright floodlights illuminate the front of her home where the car is parked. And she's considering building a garage.

"The first thing I had to deal with was the shock and finding my only means of transportation gone," said Davis, a telecommunications project leader with a local bank.

When it was stolen, she said, the car was in perfect condition. But after she found out from police that it was ditched and set on fire, "I couldn't even bear to look at it.

"Financially, I recovered everything because I had a very comprehensive insurance policy," she said. "The biggest thing, though, is that I feel violated. My car was stolen and it was maliciously destroyed by someone I don't even know about.

"It's devastating, no doubt about it," said Davis. "Sometimes I find myself going to my window just to see if my new car is still there."

Dennis Saunders, a senior vice president of Maryland National Mortgage Corp., wasn't as fortunate a victim after his son's 1985 Ford Mustang GT was stolen last March.

When his son left for training with USAir, Saunders canceled the comprehensive portion of the auto's insurance coverage. Within a month, the high-performance car was stolen from in front of the Saunders home in Columbia.

Two weeks later, Baltimore City police were questioning a 19-year-old about other thefts. He confessed on tape that not only had he stolen the Saunders' Mustang, he had taken another Mustang from Columbia that same night.

He told detectives where they could find the Saunders car, or what was left of it.

"It was completely gutted," said Saunders. "They had ripped out the engine and transmission. The entire interior was gone, so were the windows and windshield. And they took the aluminum alloy wheels and the high-performance tires."

His son, Saunders said, had purchased the car from the original owner and was paying for it himself. Saunders got $1,000 for the shell of the Mustang from a junk yard. The loss: approximately $6,000.

The suspect, meanwhile, went to court in Baltimore City. At the first trial, the 19-year-old asked for a continuance because he needed to hire a lawyer. The suspect failed to appear at the second trial. A third trial date has been set for April, nearly a year after the Mustang was stolen.

"We have an entire subculture here of people whose livelihood is auto theft," said Saunders. "They look at theft as a means of making a living and have no intention of subjecting themselves to legitimate employment. The risk of incarceration is the cost of doing business.

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