Boynton towing issues: City loses car involved in 2016 attack on woman


Joseph Costa pushed his girlfriend to the ground and jumped into his blue 2011 Chevy Cruze. He revved the engine, backed the car up and drove over her. He drove forward, dragging the woman under the car, witnesses told Boynton Beach police.

Officers had Costa in cuffs, and an attempted murder case. But about two months later they learned they didn’t have a main piece of evidence — the car.

They lost it.

Beck’s Towing & Recovery sold it at auction. The owner said the police department never told them to hold on to it, documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post revealed.

“When you think about it, how do you lose a car?” Costa’s attorney, Michael Salnick, said. “Whoa, where did it go? What happened to it?”

The loss of the car didn’t kill the case. In fact, Costa pleaded guilty in November to attempted second-degree murder and domestic battery for the April 2016 attack. He’ll serve five years in prison . The victim agreed with the sentence.

But the loss highlighted the need to update what a longtime officer called an “antiquated” towing procedure. The department made changes to the rules and opened an internal affairs investigation that resulted in officials issuing a verbal reprimand for unsatisfactory performance to the case’s lead detective, Evelyn McCoy.

McCoy, also known as Evelyn Gorfido, is in her 12th year with Boynton police, the city said.

Police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said the department updated the towing policies in February and in September. She declined to say if the department has lost track of any other cars.

The towing company’s president, Stephanie Beck, said the company had never experienced such a problem since opening in 1995. She said police did not properly fill out the form that would have notified the company to hold the car.

The company sold the Chevy at auction in June. Documents from Boynton show the car sold for $4,000. Beck would not say who bought it.

After towing the car from the scene to the police department, the towing company moved it days later to Beck’s yard, where police thought the car would be held.

But two towing receipts existed for the Chevy: One indicated the car should be held, and the other didn’t. The towing company had the latter receipt and the police department had the former, records show.

The towing policy didn’t require the detective to update the receipts to tell the towing company the car’s status had changed, reported Scott Harris, an asset forfeiture specialist, who has worked at the department for about 25 years.

“S. Harris advised that we have had this issue going on for a long time and it’s finally become a problem,” the internal affairs investigator wrote. “S. Harris advised that it was a communications error and that someone should have followed through with it.”

Sgt. Jason Llopis worked on the new tow procedures with Harris. He said the tow receipts now have to indicate how many times the vehicle has changed custody and who made the change. It also calls for the towing liaison to have more involvement in holds, towing and storage.

Llopis said he didn’t know what went wrong in this case. Maybe Beck’s had both receipts and decided to use the one that worked more to their benefit, he said. Or, maybe the company was never given the proper form. Either way, the responsibility lay with the lead investigator, McCoy, he said.

In her internal affairs interview, McCoy couldn’t say for sure what happened either but she said she didn’t intentionally make a mistake.

“McCoy said in her mind she thought there was a legitimate hold on the vehicle,” the investigator wrote.

McCoy said she made the call to dispatch to have Beck’s tow the car to the company’s yard. She said she thought that was enough to hold the vehicle. She didn’t remember if she gave the amended tow receipt to the truck driver and said it didn’t occur to her that Beck’s would need a copy of the amended receipt.

While the lost car prompted changes in the department, it probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome had the case gone to trial.

The missing car likely would have been mentioned, Salnick said, “because there was a critical piece of evidence that was lost.” But, he said, “It’s one of those deals where it sounds worse than it is.”

“I don’t think it would have been that fatal because there were two eyewitnesses. In addition to the victim, the neighbors saw it,” he said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry donate royal wedding flowers to hospice patients
Meghan Markle, Prince Harry donate royal wedding flowers to hospice patients

Patients at St. Joseph's Hospice in London received a special gift after Saturday's royal wedding. According to People magazine, Britain's Prince Harry and bride Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, gave the hospice some flowers that had been used to decorate St. George's Chapel for their ceremony. "Today we got a very special delivery. Beautiful...
Original 'Kiss Me, Kate' star Patricia Morison dead at 103
Original 'Kiss Me, Kate' star Patricia Morison dead at 103

Patricia Morison, who played the shrewish lead role in the 1948 Cole Porter Broadway musical “Kiss Me, Kate,” died Sunday, Variety reported. She was 103.  Morison also appeared on stage with Yul Brynner in “The King and I” and starred in films such as “The Song of Bernadette.” She also appeared as Basil...
Wellington deals with ‘exceptional’ rainfall, water levels expected to rise
Wellington deals with ‘exceptional’ rainfall, water levels expected to rise

As rain continues to pound Palm Beach County, Wellington is working to mitigate the effects as days of storms add up.  The village received more than 4 inches of rain from Saturday afternoon through Sunday, Wellington said in a news release. “The village has received an exceptional amount of rainfall over the last four weeks,&rdquo...
LATEST: Man charged in Boynton drive-by that injures teen gets $20,000 bond
LATEST: Man charged in Boynton drive-by that injures teen gets $20,000 bond

An 18-year-old boy who allegedly shot and injured a teen in Boynton Beach Wednesday night was given a $20,000 bond by a Palm Beach County Court judge Saturday morning. Cleevens Altiner was arrested Friday and faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill and aggravated battery with a firearm. The judge ordered a $10...
Accused Santa Fe shooter won't get death penalty -- and could get paroled someday 
Accused Santa Fe shooter won't get death penalty -- and could get paroled someday 

Even though Dimitrios Pagourtzis was charged as an adult in the mass shooting at a southeastern Texas high school Friday, he will not face the death penalty and could even be eligible for parole someday, the Houston Chronicle reported. Pagourtzis, 17, a high school junior, admitted to the shootings that killed 10 and wounded 13, according to court...
More Stories