Family questions Gastonia Police Department investigation

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Someone stole a car and broke into another one from a family that lives in Gastonia. The family has been working with police to find who's responsible, but they say they are more frustrated with police than the thieves.

The Felt family walked outside on August 1 and realized their 2015 Honda Accord was gone, and their Jeep Wrangler had been broken into.

"I could see stuff was just thrown everywhere, from the glove compartment and stuff," Stephanie Felt said.

Felt says they immediately called police and the woman on the phone told them not to touch their car because police would be coming to fingerprint it.

Felt says one officer showed up and took her statement, then was about to leave without fingerprinting the car.

"I go 'wait, aren't you going to fingerprint my car?' and he says 'well I can if you want me to,'" Felt said.

She told officers she most definitely wanted her car fingerprinted so they could find out who did it. She says another officer came to her house to fingerprint but starting packing up his gear after dusting for prints on just the exterior.

"I was like, 'Wait, you didn't fingerprint the inside of my car?' And he says, 'ma'am, you'll hate me if I do that,'" Felt said. "And I said 'well, I want to hate you, because they went through everything in my car and if there's a possibility that you can get even one print, please just let me worry about the mess.'"

However, Felt says the officer would not dust for prints on the inside of the vehicle.

"He said he got 40 prints off the exterior and was feeling pretty confident," Felt said.

Felt says the next day she got a call from the police department saying they found her car. It was left at a school parking lot without the wheels and had severe damage to the bottom of the car. She says it is totaled.

When the Felts found out where the car was dumped, they went to see where it was left. They noticed a surveillance camera pointing in the direction of the spot where their car was. Felt says she asked the principal of the school to review the footage to see if anything was on it.

She says the footage showed a lot.

"What time the car was left, two people taking the wheels off the car, the police recovering it - and it was time and date stamped, everything," Felt said.

The principal said it was grainy and difficult to make out the getaway car, but she would turn it over to police if they asked for it themselves. Felt said she called to tell police about the footage, but did not hear back from them for over a week.

When the original detective on the case called her back, she says he told her they found a match from a fingerprint they retrieved off her car. She says the officer told her it matched a person who has a history of stealing cars.

However, she says the officer told her it was not enough to convict.

"He said, 'ma'am, I don't even know if we have a case, the fingerprint was on the exterior of the car, that doesn't tie him to stealing your car,'" Felt said. "And I was like 'well if that's the case then we have a problem because you refused to fingerprint the interior of my car.'"

She says she also asked the officer if they retrieved the video surveillance footage she uncovered from the school. She says the officer did not know what she was referring to because the report was not updated, or even showing where the car was found.

She says he later told her they did not pick up the footage and the school had recorded over it in the meantime.

"He said we just didn't get down there in time," Felt said.

WBTV reached out to the Gastonia Police Department for a response to the family's claims. A spokesperson for the department said they would not get into the details of the case.

"This case is under investigation. We obviously take our investigations very seriously and this one is no exception. Some investigations just take longer than others," Gastonia Police Department Public Information Officer Donna Lahser said.

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