Picture shows body undetected inside impounded van

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A photo taken by a local auction site shows what appears to be a body inside an impounded van.

A viewer sent WMC Action News 5 the picture saying it was the same body that went undetected by Memphis Police Department for 49 days.

WMC5 first asked MPD on Tuesday if the van in question was ever put up for auction. "No it was not up for auction," MPD said in a statement.

Wednesday, when WMC5 told MPD specifically about the picture, MPD refused to confirm if the van and body in the picture were the same as the ones at the center of the ongoing investigation. However, the department did change its statement about the van being put up for auction, now saying the following:

"This investigation is ongoing. No additional information is available at this point."

The picture comes from Venture Auctions, an auction house that partners with Memphis to resell confiscated items.

Venture Auctions said the van was never officially up for auction. The company's auctions happen Tuesday at noon and the original owner of the van arrived at the impound lot Monday, Feb. 5, to pick up his van.

However, a source said pictures of things that will be auctioned on Tuesdays do sometimes go online before the auction. The source said it was possible that the van MPD picked up Monday would have been posted on the auction site before being picked up.

The picture has since been removed from Venture Auctions' website.

[Editor's note: We have blurred part of the picture out of respect for the family of the deceased.]

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland spoke about the investigation and said the victim's family is the most important thing to him.

Strickland believes MPD Director Mike Rallings has handled the investigation, and when the time comes, the person responsible for the mistake will be held accountable.

He said the oversight was a human error and did not reflect poorly on the policy but the execution of the policy.

"I accept responsibility for it. Let's let the investigation move forward and hold people accountable for this mistake," Strickland said.

Strickland said the mistake has not diminished his faith in MPD.

Strickland said the department receives over a million calls per year and currently have 1,900 vehicles at the impound lot, and that it was an isolated mistake that is not commonplace.

"We hear about all these 'oops we made a mistake.' At a certain point, 'oops' isn't going to cut it. This incident is another reason why we've been calling for an audit of the Memphis Police Department," said Paul Garner with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

Strickland said he will take corrective action, but did not speculate on any potential punishments that may come out of the investigation.

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