KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The mystery of the missing wheels hit home with some people who saw the original Target 8 report in July. They called to offer Michael Couch their own wheels and money after his stolen 1995 Chevy Silverado came home after nearly four months in an impound lot without any wheels.
While Couch was grateful, it turned out he wouldn’t need their help.
Somebody stole the truck from in front of Couch’s Grand Rapids home in January and dumped it in a Kentwood trailer park. Image Towing was eventually called to haul it away. Image says it faxed the information on the tow to Kentwood police so officers could check to see if the truck had been stolen. Police say they never got it, so nobody told Couch. The truck sat in Image’s lot for months.
Then in late May, the towing company asked Kentwood police for paperwork that would allow the company to sell the truck at auction. It quickly became clear it belonged to Couch and had been stolen. At first, Couch says, the towing operator wanted him to pay fees of nearly $12,000 to get his truck back, then dropped the figure to $5,000 and then, finally, $1,500.
When his truck came back, he had to put it up on blocks because it had no wheels. Image Towing owner Kirk Wakefield said his driver found it that way.
Target 8 investigators started knocking on doors and found a homeowner who had taken pictures of the pickup parked on his street a couple weeks before Image towed it. The wheels were on it at that time.
The Kentwood Police Department took note. Following the initial Target 8 investigation in July, police found body camera video dated May 24 showing an officer going out to check on the truck. The video shows the custom wheels were on the truck, then, too.
Capt. Ryan VanderVeen had been helping Couch and called Wakefield, the towing company owner.
“I just explained to him that we did, in fact, know that the vehicle was not picked up without wheels on it because of the bodycam footage four months later,” VanderVeen said. “And he did offer to make it right with Michael Couch.”
“My wife and I went out there and he cut me a check and that was that,” Couch said.
Image gave him $3,000 and Couch promptly bought new custom wheels for his truck.
In a phone conversation, Wakefield said he initially told Target 8, Couch and the police that the truck was picked up without wheels because that’s what was written “on a note” from an employee.
Wakefield said he “can’t put a finger” on who stole the custom wheels but said he suspects one of two workers who he fired for other reasons.
“I spoke with several employees from Image,” VanderVeen said. “I’m not really sure who has the … tires or where they are now or how they were removed.”
Still, police have moved on. So has Couch.
“With your help, the truth came out,” he told Target 8. “And to everybody who reached out, I say thank you.”