Police previously encountered stolen car where body was found, records show

March 15, 2011

A Fort Washington resident called Prince George’s County police with the kind of complaint that officers encourage. An unfamiliar black Honda Accord was parked in the neighborhood, in the 500 block of Kisconko Turn. Could police come check it out?

An officer went to the neighborhood that same day, on Jan. 16, ran the car’s license plate and apparently left without doing anything. The car had been reported stolen in November, but that fact did not come up when the officer checked the tags, said Lt. Tammy Sparkman, a Prince George’s County police spokeswoman.

On Monday, the car showed up again in an Oxon Hill impound lot.

A man’s body was in the trunk, and a mother who thinks it was her son’s was grieving.

The incident has prompted investigators to trace the car’s path from Kisconko Turn to the impound lot in the 1100 block of Elwin Road. They will focus in particular on what happened Jan. 16, Sparkman said.

Sparkman said investigators have not yet positively identified the body inside the car or determined how the man died. Tonya Bynum, the grieving mother, said a detective told her it was her son, Maurice Bynum, 22. The body was decomposed.

Tonya Bynum, 39, who lives in Capitol Heights, first called police Nov. 29. She told them that her son had left a day earlier in his sister’s 2000 black Honda Accord and never returned home. She said she reported the incident in the District (where her son was last seen) and in Prince George’s (where she lives).

At the same time, Bynum said she reported to a district court commissioner that her son had taken her daughter’s Honda without authorization — a simple procedural step to make sure police would look for it.

“It was a lot,” Bynum said in an interview this week. “I was so tired. I was like, nobody’s family should have suffered the way the way I suffered.”

Bynum said she soon began having dreams that her son was in the trunk of the missing Honda, but police made little progress on the case. Then on Monday, she said her daughter got a letter: the car had been impounded and was in the lot in Oxon Hill.

Bynum said she told the lot’s owner not to touch the vehicle “because there’s a body” inside and then she called 911.

She says an employee at the impound lot and other people have told her that the car had been sitting on Kisconko Turn since December and that it arrived at the lot on March 8. She said she questioned why police did not find and impound the car sooner and why they did not inspect it for a body.

“It was just bad police work all the way around,” she said. “The pain and suffering is the worst.”

Sparkman said police had records of receiving two calls about the car from the Kisconko Turn neighborhood — the one that came Jan. 16 and a similar one that caused it to be impounded March 8. She said the officer who had the car impounded seemed to have followed the appropriate procedures. He performed a visual scan because the car was locked and sent the car’s owner a certified letter letting her know that the vehicle had been recovered.

“According to policy, the officer did what he was supposed to do,” Sparkman said. “He responded, he impounded the car, the car was locked, he did a visual inspection, and had the car towed, in turn sending a letter to the owner for them to pick the car up.”

Sparkman said the actions of the officer who encountered the car in January were being investigated, although records indicate that he did run a computer check of the Accord’s license plate to see whether it was stolen. Maj. Andrew Ellis, another spokesman, said he would request that police officials evaluate the policies for how officers inspect stolen vehicles before releasing them to their owners.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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