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Missing money in Petersburg evidence room disrupts court case

WWBT, NBC12, 12 On Your Side,
BYLINE: Rachel DePompa

Petersburg, VA

2015-11-23_Missing money in evidence room_01
Petersburg Bureau of Police (Source: NBC12)(Source: NBC12)

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Fallout is beginning from a case involving missing money in the Petersburg Police evidence room.

Prosecutors reduced the charge against a burglary suspect Monday because the $400 confiscated in the investigation is no longer in evidence. It's part of the $13,356 that was missing from the Petersburg Police evidence room.

The money is connected to three cases including Monday's against Robert Bruce Taylor. Sources say he was caught by police and on surveillance camera inside the Little Food Market on Halifax Street. Taylor was charged with felony burglary. On Monday, that was reduced to misdemeanor trespassing, mainly because the $400 he's accused of stealing is nowhere to be found in the evidence room. Without that cash, Monday's case crumbled.

Also of note, normally when a case ends, the money is returned. However, NBC12 Legal Analyst Steven Benjamin said under Virginia law, police don't even have to confiscate money as part of the evidence in certain larceny and burglary prosecutions.

"We have a law on the books that permits the police to simply take a photograph of the items stolen or the money, return those items and then use the photographs as evidence at any hearing or any trial,” Benjamin said. “The last thing the victims want is to have to wait for six months or a year for a case to conclude in order to get their hard earned dollars back.”

The owner of the store said on Monday she did not know the case was in court this morning or that the money she says was taken from her store is now gone.

We asked Petersburg Police if it would reimburse the owner. "There is a dispute between the store owner and the suspect regarding who the $400 belongs to,” said Esther Hyatt, spokeswoman for Petersburg Police. “Once that is resolved, the funds will be returned to the owner.”

However, the department did not explain how it would find those funds.

The department did say they are continuing to address the concern and implement measures to avoid a recurrence.

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