Kayakgate: Stolen boat held despite Twitterer's find
The dismay that avid social networker Marijean Jaggers felt when she discovered her distinctive mango-colored kayak had been stolen soon turned to joy when one of her Twitter followers found the purloined boat at a nearby sporting goods store. Case closed? Not quite.
Instead, the mystery deepens. Why did it take seven weeks to get the kayak back? Why have no arrests been made, even though police know who accompanied the seller? And why do police say they're unable to determine that Jaggers is the owner, despite a folder full of documentation?
"It was a big purchase for the Jaggers family," says Jaggers, producing the receipt she and her husband received for the $850 Pamlico tandem kayak purchased in 2007 from Appomattox River Company in Farmville.
Along with receipts, Jaggers has photos of the kayak showing her husband, Mark, in it. "It's something we do together," she says. "It's symbolic."
Just three hours after Jaggers tweeted that the couple's kayak had been stolen, a citizen named Brenden Grace tweeted that he saw it at Play It Again Sports in the Rio Hill Shopping Center. Mark Jaggers immediately drove over to investigate.
"He said, 'Oh, yeah,'" Jaggers says. "He'd installed a fishing rod holder with messy white sealer. It's really distinctive." She has the receipt for that, too.
The couple had been keeping the kayak under the deck behind their house in the Hollymead neighborhood, a location not easily visible from the street and a fact that perplexes Jaggers about who would know it was there.
In recent days, Hollymead has seen a rash of car break-ins. On the day of a reporter's visit, two residents report that thieves stole items from their unlocked cars during the night, and a member of the Albemarle Police Department confirms there's been an increase in larcenies from vehicles in Hollymead, and says it's possible they may be connected to the kayak heist.
One person who might be able to shed some light on what Jaggers is calling "kayakgate" is Brent Montgomery. A 2008 graduate of Albemarle High School and a one-time student at Hampden-Sydney College, Montgomery conceded in a telephone call from a reporter that he is the person who provided ID for the questionable transaction.
"Don't call this number again," said Montgomery–- no longer listed in Hampden-Sydney's student registry–- when asked if the infamous boat had belonged to him. Then he hung up.
Besides a law against selling stolen goods, Virginia has a law criminalizing assisting such illicit deals. The law appears to require knowledge that the item was stolen. Police, say Sergeant Darrell Byers, consulted the commonwealth's attorney, who decided not to file any charges against the 20-year-old Montgomery.
"We were unable to determine who the owner of the kayak was," explains Byers, "because of the serial number and identifying marks."
Jaggers concedes that despite their otherwise voluminous kayak folder, the couple didn't have a record of the boat's serial number, and Mark Jaggers erroneously provided a stock number to police.
"It's not necessary to have a serial number to prove ownership," asserts his wife.
Play It Again Sports owner Troy Crews says he, too, feels victimized by the incident.
"I'm out 140 bucks," says Crews. "It came in, and within a day or two, police were investigating and said we couldn't sell it."
As with pawn shops, Crews says he requires a photo ID when his shop buys used sporting goods and finds that fewer than one percent of the items the store buys are hot. In this case, he says police told him that since Jaggers couldn't prove ownership, he shouldn't release the kayak.
"It's a 16-foot boat sitting in the store," says Crews, who released the boat after Jaggers filed suit in small claims court.
Crews objects to some of the angry comments written on Jaggers' blog. "The blame was put on me as a business owner," he complains. "We were ordered by Albemarle police to hold it."
Jaggers notes that a solo thief would have been hard-pressed to steal a 16-foot boat. And she, too, expresses frustration that even with the identity of a person present for the fencing, no one has been arrested.
"It's not a very satisfying experience," says Jaggers.
One person did, however, get some satisfaction. Brenden Grace is the Twitterer who spotted the kayak. Although Jaggers works as a public relations/social networking specialist, she's also known for baking pies, and she promised to give one to whoever found her boat.
"Ridiculously good," tweets Grace. "Totally stands up to the hype."