Source: Van where body found was set to be auctioned by police

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police had already started the process to auction off a van in its impound lot when its owner returned weeks later and found a body inside, a source says.

A letter was sent to Pablo Castor, the owner, that his van was going to be auctioned if he didn’t come and pick it up, so he rushed over to the impound lot.

When he inspected the van he found the body.

A source also confirmed that pictures were taken of the van, but no one saw the body.

►Related: Man found dead in police impound lot more than 6 weeks after shooting

Police said Wednesday that the person who was located inside of the van has not yet been identified, but does not match the description of anyone in their missing persons report.

The surviving victim did not know the dead man’s name, police said.

At least three levels of inspection failed to turn up the body of a homicide victim that sat at the police impound lot after three men were shot during a robbery Dec. 18.

Mayor Jim Strickland said Wednesday he had called for an immediate investigation. “This is absolutely not acceptable,” he said. “It was a clear violation of policy. I await the investigation and look forward to the director holding whatever parties are responsible, accountable.”

Strickland said there are approximately 1,900 vehicles in the police impound lot and the city’s policy is to inspect and inventory them.

“Anytime the Police Department takes custody of a vehicle they need to review that vehicle and do an inventory of what’s inside,” he said. “That obviously was not done. There was not a complete inventory of this vehicle. Otherwise, the body would’ve been found.”

The vehicle had supposedly been inspected by the Crime Scene unit, Uniform Patrol and workers at the impound lot.

Typically on a crime scene, before MPD tows a vehicle, they need to do inventory where they search the vehicle. They then fill out a towing slip with that information and give it to the tow truck driver. The tow truck driver hands off the slip at the impound lot and someone there needs to check its accuracy by re-searching the vehicle. They then check the vehicle into the impound lot.

However, in a case where a critical injury is involved, like this one, the protocol is different, according to multiple MPD sources.

MPD will secure the vehicle and have it towed to what’s called “the tunnel” at the impound lot. This is inside a warehouse where they can process vehicles for fingerprints and search it thoroughly in a controlled environment. The tow truck driver would have the towing slip that says the vehicle needs to be processed still.

Typically, the processing of the vehicle will happen within 24-48 hours by a detective and crime scene officer. They’ll obtain a search warrant depending on the circumstances. After they search it, the vehicle would be moved to the impound lot.

When asked about his faith in the Memphis Police Department, Mayor Strickland stated it’s “very high, very high. The Police Department responds to a million calls year. There are thousands of cars that go through the impound lot every year. One incident, as bad as it is, does not effect my opinion of the police director at all.”

He also said it’s “too early” to make any conclusions on whether the Memphis Police Department should continue to have control over the impound lot.

WREG will have more of this developing story online and on News Channel 3 beginning at 4 p.m.