October 8, 2016
TRAVERSE CITY — A Grand Traverse County prosecutor hopes just a few weeks are left in a lengthy investigation into cash officials suspect was stolen from a Michigan State Police evidence room.
Nearly $10,000 — including some logged as evidence against Aubrey Earl Rye, a 52-year-old Interlochen man, who was convicted of armed robbery in 2014 — vanished from the MSP Cadillac post sometime after Rye was arrested on Dec. 8, 2013.
The money was reported missing on March 18, 2014, said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney.
No one has been charged with the crime more than two years later.
"It does cause one to want to scratch their head a little bit, like 'what's going on here?'" said Randy Smith, a now-retired attorney who represented Rye.
Cam Henke of the MSP's Sixth District Headquarters in Rockford was tasked with overseeing the agency's investigation into the suspected theft. Cooney, who agreed to oversee the Wexford County case as a special prosecutor, said the MSP auditor's first report was released in September 2014.
Cooney said he received the final MSP incident report on Jan. 12, 2015.
All state police posts have evidence rooms that are designed to keep evidence secured and locked away, Henke said. He said the Cadillac case was the only missing evidence incident he has investigated in his MSP tenure.
Henke said his investigation ended once Cooney got hold of the evidence collected.
"We completed the investigation, turned it over to the prosecutor and are waiting to hear back from him," Henke said.
But the report was wanting. Cooney said he asked for further investigation and is still waiting on answers to some of his follow-up questions.
"We had enough concerns that we went out and hired our own accountant," he said. "We had this accountant do a review of the files independently."
Cooney hired Heidi Wendel, an accountant with Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth, to do another audit last year. He expects to receive Wendel's report in mid-October.
The report will be key in deciding whether to authorize charges in the case, Cooney said.
The missing cash came from evidence collected from 10 criminal cases, including Rye's. Smith said the missing money didn't impact Rye's case — it just meant prosecutors didn't have physical evidence to introduce.
But Smith believes the years-long investigation shows a double standard. He said Cooney would have authorized larceny charges against a regular person suspected of stealing cash within the week.
Smith said he's confident the culprit was employed by the MSP.
"I imagine whoever it is has retired from the state police and probably is drawing a full pension as we speak," he said.
Cooney contended the delay is frustrating for him, too. He said he expected to decide whether to charge someone with the crime long ago.
"The whole concern of course is public integrity and that's very important," Cooney said. "I want to make sure we're thorough in our review of this case and the public is confident that we did everything that we could to resolve this matter in the most judicious manner possible."
First Lt. David Street of the Cadillac post referred questions to the MSP public information division.
Dec. 8, 2013: Aubrey Earl Rye arrested on suspicion of armed robbery in Grand Traverse County
March 2014: Cash reported missing from MSP Cadillac Post evidence room
September 2014: MSP filed complaint after investigation
January 2015: Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney selected as special prosecutor in missing cash case
January and February, 2015: Cooney received full MSP investigation and police report and asked for further investigation
Fall 2015: Cooney contacted private auditor
October 2016: Expected date Cooney expects to receive final report from private auditor