Lake Norman & Mooresville

Police property room holds puzzles and clues

Everything has a story to tell: The abandoned bicycle, a diamond ring, a lost wallet, even a rusty shotgun.

At the Huntersville Police Department, each item has sat on the shelves of the lost and found.

While some items are claimed, others remain with untold stories of where they came from or who they belonged to.

The lost and found, known as the property room, treats found materials as evidence because an item's history is unclear and it could have been involved in a crime, said Capt. Michael Kee of the Huntersville Police Department.

"There have been cases where a lost item being located led to the location of a body in a murder case," said Kee, 43. Also located in the property room is a vault that houses drugs, money and weapons that are both found and confiscated. On the other side of the room are refrigerators that store DWI blood kits and DNA sexual assault evidence kits, said Julie Poeppelman, 32, property and evidence technician.

Most items in the property room such as a snowboard, a U.S. flag, golf clubs, wallets and denture adhesive were found in stolen cars and purses.

Recently, a microwave oven was found hidden behind a bush in a park, said Kee.

"There's probably a lot of found property that's never linked back to crime, kind of like the microwave," said Lt. Ken Richardson, 39.

"Somebody had to carry that microwave and hide it back there. Was it bad and they didn't want it anymore, or was it stolen and they hid it in the woods? We just don't know."

One of the stranger pieces of evidence Richardson said he found while working on a homicide case was a rusty, sawed-off shotgun, in a pond.

"Maybe (it was discarded) because it was illegal, it was sawed-off, so (someone was) trying to get rid of it. But it always makes you wonder how long it's been there," said Richardson.

"It could have been there for 20 years, so who knows what that shotgun was involved in."

The Huntersville Police Department has 83 officers bringing in lost items, he said.

Lost materials are stored for 180 days. After that, unclaimed money is donated to local schools, and items such as bicycles are given to churches and Lydia's Loft, a charity in Huntersville. Following a judge's approval, non-monetary materials in the vault are melted at a scrap metal site.

By N.C. law and the police department's policy, if someone finds money and turns it into the department, they can keep the money if no one has claimed it in 180 days, said Richardson.

"You just don't know, there's mystery behind a lot of these things," said Richardson.

"It always makes you wonder."