New Mexico Police Hold Stolen Truck Hostage

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Bill Hennecke became the victim of auto theft Oct. 11 when his 1972 Chevrolet pickup was stolen from his business in Payson.

The truck was recovered that same day in New Mexico by the Tucumcari Police. The occupants of the vehicle, Frank and Julie Moon, both of Payson, were arrested.

Frank Moon was charged with receiving stolen property, conspiracy, felon in possession of a firearm, no driver's license, no insurance and expired registration.

Julie Moon was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, receiving stolen property and conspiracy.

The Moons were not only in possession of a stolen truck with a fictitious license plate; authorities discovered stolen weapons and bikes in the vehicle. Additionally there was, according to Payson Police Detective Steve Johnson, a "bed full" of heavy-duty construction equipment including a table saw, nail guns, power drills and various other items.

In the state of Arizona, when police recover a stolen vehicle, it is normally towed and placed into police impound. The vehicle is usually returned to the owner within 24 to 48 hours after it is processed for evidence, Johnson said.

It has been 61 days since Hennecke became a victim. He continues to be a victim at the hands of the Tucumcari Police.

Jack's Truck Repair was called to the scene to tow the stolen vehicle. Tucumcari police not only let Jack tow the truck to his residence, they left the stolen property in the vehicle.

Jack now has all the evidence and the vehicle. Jack is charging $10 a day for the vehicle to sit at his house.

According to Johnson, no one really knows where the stolen guns are. Tucumcari police are "passing the buck" from one person to another. There is no property sheet with an inventory of the guns, bikes or construction equipment which Johnson believes may also be stolen.

Jack originally would not release the truck to Hennecke because the police had told him not to due to the fact the stolen property was in it.

A barrage of phone calls ensued over the next few weeks to Tucumcari, not only by Johnson, but by Chief Gordon Gartner, Lt. Don Engler and Sgt. Tom Tieman in an attempt to obtain not only the truck, but the stolen property.

"In my opinion, I was dealing with the police department of Andy of Mayberry, only Andy was on vacation," Johnson said. "I spent most of the time talking with a dispatcher and an officer who was in field training, getting nowhere."

Meanwhile, the daily impound fee of $10 on the truck and its contents continues to add up.

The victim list grew. Hennecke is joined by the owner of the stolen bikes, valued at $1,500 as well as the owner of the guns which were taken during a burglary. The question of who the construction equipment belongs to remains a mystery and will be until Payson police can physically get their hands on them.

While the phone lines between Payson and Tucumcari were burning up negotiating for the return of stolen property, the Moons, according to Johnson, were standing before a Quay County judge pleading guilty and receiving their sentencing.

The Payson Roundup obtained a copy of the Tucumcari police report which is nothing more than a radio log. There are no interviews, no list of evidence and no mention of the victims.

In Arizona, a defendant can't be sentenced without allowing input from the victim. It's called, "Victim's Rights."

Dec. 11, Johnson made yet another phone call and was told the truck could be released. The tow bill is now $755, and the stolen property is still in the truck, parked at Jack's house.

"Nobody wants to pay it," Johnson said.

Hennecke is in disbelief that his truck was stolen, held hostage and he is now expected to pay to get it back.

"Every day it's there, the bill continues to add up," Hennecke said. "I was prepared to go get it at one point, but they wouldn't release it to me because of the stolen property in it, and now I can't afford it."

Johnson said he can't believe the difference in the criminal justice system between Tucumcari and Payson.

"What upsets me the most is the victims in this case are being victimized again by the Tucumcari police," Johnson said. "We may lose the property due to their ineptitude."

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