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Trooper who missed body in towed car suspended

Posted April 22, 2013

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— A State Highway Patrol trooper who didn't see a woman's body inside a wrecked car before he had it towed away last month has been suspended without pay, authorities said Monday.

Carolyn Ann Watkins' 2000 Pontiac Sunfire was found in a watery ditch, down a steep embankment off Swift Creek Road, about 4 miles southwest of Smithfield on March 29 and was towed to an impound lot, according to a report from the Highway Patrol.

Trooper Marlon Williams, who ordered the car towed, said "no driver (was) at the scene of this collision" in his report. However, Smithfield police found Watkins' body in the driver's seat three days later after family members reported her missing.

Pam Walker, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, said Williams, a nine-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, has been suspended but provided no other details.

Walker and Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said last week that he faces no criminal charges in the case.

A preliminary autopsy showed that Watkins, 62, suffered head and neck trauma and likely died in the crash.

Her family criticized Williams' actions, saying that she might have been saved if someone had seen her in the car before it was towed from the crash scene.

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  • iamarmed Apr 24, 2013

    @ peneplope1 and polar ice...... no it's her fault for for not wearing a seatbelt and wrecking in the first place on why she is dead..... the point i've been trying to make that escapes you is yes he is guilty of not finding her body but it's no worse than her so called loving family not "missing"
    her for 3 days...i'm just tired of everyone piling on the trooper for a mistake.... you have no idea how many people he has saved by getting high speeders and drunks off the road..

  • penelope1 Apr 24, 2013

    iamarmedok....all of you on here attacking the trooper for not finding her DEAD body ...and don't foget she had drugs on her,she's the one that wrecked.. you do the math as they say.... why are you not attacking the LOVING family that waited 3 days to report her missing... really! now they care...... he got his punishment time to move on...i'm sure this won't happen again with him anyway....

    Oh now it's the family's fault, don't blame the trooper, blame the tow truck drive; excuse me! Who's next to blame Obama?

  • btneast Apr 24, 2013

    The amount of information available on the web is a blessing and a curse,

    ...on that, we agree...

    but relying on only one source of information is not something that social activists are known for.

    ....I think that is wishful thinking. What separates a "social activist" from some fool behind a keyboard that posts unreliable information on blogs?

    NY Post, for example, is not a respectable news source

    ...perhaps, but who determines what is respectable and what is not? One man's respectable news source is another man's unreliable source.

    Social activism can be good by shining the light of truth on bad things, but it is a double edged sword that can wreak havoc just as easily. There is no way to control it. Who decides which "activist" is to be believed, and which is a nut case? The Reddit situation in Boston is a good example....that innocent kid could have been physically harmed badly, even literally lynched.

  • wiz Apr 23, 2013

    Wow...Did he even check the car to see if anyone was in it??...How do you not see a body in a car??....9 year veteran or not, he should lose his job & & have his Leo credentials permanently revoked....

  • kodac31 Apr 23, 2013

    That Trooper had a bad case of LAZY!! He saw a car down in a watery swamp and I'd gurantee you the reason he never saw her in the car was because the Trooper never got out of his patrol car. He likely just called for a wrecker. He didn't want to risk getting his uniform and shoes muddy and wet. He should have been terminated. The family has a great lawsuit against this Trooper and the State Highway Patrol for negligence! This is gonna cost the State BIG TIME!!!

  • downtowner Apr 23, 2013

    "That sounds like the modern day equivalent of a lynch mob"

    The difference between social activism and lynch mob mentality is social activism is used to hold people accountable when the justice system has failed. Look at how the popularity of Anonymous skyrocketed once they threw aside their more juvenile ventures in order to focus on exposing the rampant rape culture. The amount of information available on the web is a blessing and a curse, but relying on only one source of information is not something that social activists are known for. NY Post, for example, is not a respectable news source. Sure, sometimes kids get behind a keyboard and start a riot on some web forums such as this one. Still, I'd say your position is at best cautious of the winds of change and at worst willfully neglects the good that is being done with 0s and 1s.

  • btneast Apr 23, 2013

    The paper work he signed is an legal document and he comitted fraud on his part.

    Fraid not, it would maybe be fraud if you could prove he knew there was a body and signed off that there was not....in this case he signed off on what he knew, however erroneous it was. It does not sound like he willfully misrepresented anything....he just was not thorough.

  • thefuture20 Apr 23, 2013

    He should be suspended. It shoould be alot longer then a a week or two. When you at a scene you check the whole car out.If you do not see anyone you walk around checking for clues. You would not just run the tag and say that is the end off it. You are going to investigate what took place. The trooper must have felt like it was a waste of his time. Has anyone body ask the trooper what really happen? He should have a more stiff punishment. He signed off on paper work he knew was false. The paper work he signed is an legal document and he comitted fraud on his part. I am not saying fire him but something more should be done for this.

  • btneast Apr 23, 2013

    Too bad in this day and age it takes constant petitioning, social media, and public outcry to get justice.

    That sounds like the modern day equivalent of a lynch mob.....public outcry based on a partial knowledge of the whole story? I was just reading last night that Reddit is having to apologize for nearly indicting in the court of public opinion a Boston area kid that was misidentified as the Boston Bomber. Directing the fury of social media against someone based on information gathered from one news stations website is the height of irresponsibility.

  • downtowner Apr 23, 2013

    whatever happened to personal responsibility? Considering the magnitude of this trooper's mistake the proper punishment is to fire him. Too bad in this day and age it takes constant petitioning, social media, and public outcry to get justice.

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