Car trouble: Thief demands justice-- and gets it

When a thief stole a car from Edgecomb's Imported Auto on Avon Street Extended, no one at the used car lot and service station expected to see the car again. But then again, they never figured the alleged perp would call the police himself.

Just before 8pm closing time– on Monday, October 28, Edgecomb's employee Sarah Janeway says she looked to the back of the sales lot and saw a car idling.

The weather was misting that night, so Janeway couldn't tell if the car belonged to a customer. She went into the office to bring a brochure out to what she assumed was a prospective buyer, who at that point was driving slowly toward her. As she got closer, however, it became clear that buying wasn't on this driver's mind.

"He stepped on it and got past me," Janeway says.

As the car, a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo sedan one of Edgecomb's high-end cars, with a sticker price of $13,995 tore out of the lot, Janeway hurried inside to call police.

"I was mad!" she says.

General Manager Sheri Edgecomb says that when she heard the car had been stolen, she took to the streets, hoping to come across the lost sheep from her flock. She found nothing.

Three days later, however, Edgecomb's got a call from Newport News police: The car had been found, undamaged, in Newport News.

But the story got stranger.

The Volvo had allegedly been stolen by Floyd Newby a recent resident of Piedmont House (a halfway house on Monticello Avenue)whose rap sheet in Suffolk County lists more than 25 incidents from petty larceny to grand theft auto to assault and battery.

According to Newport News police, the car had been towed by the State Police, who had found it abandoned on the highway. The Hook's calls to State Police went unreturned by presstime.

Newby apparently learned the car's whereabouts, which was the impoundment lot of the Windsor Park Exxon, and went in search of his new toy. The Exxon's owner, Su Kim, says Newby tried several times to retrieve the car, but because he couldn't offer her proof of ownership, she wouldn't release the vehicle.

Then, she says, he attempted to steal the car for the second time– by grabbing the keys. When he was prevented from doing so, he abandoned his efforts to wrest the car from her and called the police, Kim says, to report that she wouldn't release his vehicle.

Kim, however, wasn't the one in trouble. Newport News police public information officer Lou Thurston says that when the police arrived and ran the VIN number, they learned what happened at Edgecomb's and arrested Newby, who, Kim says, was just waiting around to see justice done.

As of Friday, November 8, Newby was being held in the Newport News jail, charged with altering or forging a vehicle registration or title and receiving stolen goods– a lesser offense than grand theft auto. His lawyer did not return The Hook's calls.

As for Edgecomb's, the story has a happier ending. Though they did have to pay $130 to have it released, the car was not damaged, and only a couple of hundred miles had been added to the odometer not enough to reduce the vehicle's value, Sheri Edgecomb says.

It could have been worse; along with the rest of Newby's worldly possessions found in the car and now in Edgecomb's possession– including new shoes, underwear, toothpaste, family photos, stacks of love letters, and a half-eaten bag of Fritos were the keys to a second Edgecomb's vehicle, one that had been parked immediately adjacent to the stolen Volvo.

Edgecomb's policy had been to leave the keys in the cars during operating hours so that potential buyers could get in and rev the engine, get a feel for the sound system, etc.

The night of the theft, Janeway noticed the second set of missing keys and disabled the vehicle by yanking the engine's main relay. The next morning, she says, there were tire marks in the grass nearby. Had Newby attempted to come back for another ride? No one but Newby can answer that for sure.

And for prospective thieves of Edgecomb's cars, there's bad news. The dealership no longer leaves the keys in the ignition. "It's too bad," says Janeway. "One rotten apple spoiled something that's been very nice for all of us."