Some vehicles damaged in THP impound lot in North Knoxville were evidence in court cases

Tuesday, Tennessee Highway Patrol said the semi-truck was not at fault in the fatal crash, but today THP sent a correction saying the semi-truck is the at fault vehicle.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A tractor trailer being held in a Tennessee Highway Patrol impound lot that was set on fire last week was being held as evidence in a fatal traffic crash investigation, according to the Roane County District Attorney’s Office.

The Knoxville Fire Department said the fire at a lot on Huron Street in North Knoxville was being investigated as arson.

Sheila Rogers is the office manager at Translucent Design, the business located next to the impound lot. She says each week there seems to be more vandalism.

“It’s been different things like trucks with tool boxes. The tool boxes will be pried open, stuff drug out of the cars,” said Rogers.

Previous story: Fire in Knoxville Tennessee Highway Patrol impound lot investigated as arson

Rogers say she has seen wheels, tires and license plates missing from some of the cars.

“It’s very concerning. We come in on Monday morning and you can see different things happened over the weekend and you wonder what else is going to happen,” said Rogers.

Rogers says the problem has been getting worse. She says Translucent Design has also been targeted.

“We would be spray painted and we are actually tagged back here on the back of the building now,” said Rogers.

Tennessee Highway Patrol has been leasing the lot since May 2016. Lt. Don Boshears says the lot is used to hold vehicles that have been seized or are being held as evidence at the request of prosecutors. Lt. Bill Miller says around 250 vehicles have been damaged since they started leasing the lot, but they are still investigating who is responsible.

Miller says most of the vehicles are in the lot due to DUI seizures, driving on revoked driver’s licenses, drug possession and vehicular homicide investigation. Miller says the vandalism could affect court cases.

“Yes, this obviously could impact our vehicular homicide cases. The damage does not directly affect our court cases on seizures. If the vehicle is awarded to the state, after a seizure hearing has awarded the vehicle to state, then the state is left with a damaged or destroyed vehicle that cannot be auctioned. If the vehicle is not awarded to the state and is ordered to be released back to the individual then that person has lost their property and must file a claim for reimbursement of damaged or lost property with the claims commission. In addition, any damage to a vehicle could be addressed in any settlement negotiations with the department if the owner of the vehicle wished to do so.”

Miller said there’s no evidence vandals are intentionally trying to destroy evidence. Boshears says the lot is secured with locks and fences, but Sheila Rogers believes more could be done for safety.

“If it’s not putting a stop to it now it’s only going to get worse. I don’t know if they need to post a guard or if they need to put up some type of surveillance system,” said Rogers

THP says they are aware of the vandalism in the lot but says they cannot discuss what they are doing to prevent the crime because it is “law enforcement sensitive.”

If a person’s vehicle is damaged, stolen or lost THP says that person can file a claim for reimbursement of the property with the state’s board of claims. According to THP, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is responsible for the damage unless THP captures the vandal or vandals. Then those convicted will be charged for reimbursement.

No charges have yet been filed in the Roane County investigation involving now-burned tractor trailer. THP says the semi was not the vehicle at fault. The fire is being investigated as arson. If you have any information, call the Knoxville Fire Department at (865) 595-4480.

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