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Lost family gun found at towing company as “collateral”

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SULLIVAN, MO (KTVI) - A family heirloom was taken from a totaled truck after being towed. The family and police know who has it, and now efforts are underway to get grandpa’s gun back.

Alex Crooks, then 16 years old, was heading home from a summer job, when he got into a head-on collision. Before heading to the hospital, he made sure his truck would be picked up by Certified Towing, owned by Marko Turner. “I had been friends with his son, and figured I’d help out a family business,” Crooks explains.

The next day, he and his mother went to get his belongings from the truck, only to find his shotgun missing. “We did ask the owner of the towing company if he had taken the gun and he immediately said no, he’d never saw a gun, there was no gun in the vehicle,” says Crooks’ mother, Lisa Johnson.

Since the truck was parked against the towing company building, and not locked or in a tow yard, the two figured the gun was stolen by a random thief.

Alex was devastated. The shotgun was a family heirloom: one of three guns willed to him and his brothers from his late grandfather. He explains, “It’s not very expensive, it’s just the sentimental value that it comes from my grandpa. It’s one of the only things left to his grand kids.”

The gun was lost in July 2012. Then, a few weeks ago, Turner’s son hinted to Crooks that his dad had the gun. From there, Johnson contacted Turner’s wife, to resolve the situation quietly. Johnson explains, “She said she had no intentions of giving us the gun back, and mentioned that I had an outstanding towing bill, which was not the truth at all.”

FOX 2 spoke with Turner, who says his policy is to seize belongings found in towed vehicles, as collateral, until a bill is paid in full. He says that’s why he still has the shotgun.

But Crooks’ mother takes issue with that explanation: “They would’ve said that in the very beginning when I asked them if they took the gun, so that didn’t make any sense at all. We had signed the title over for the truck to them instead of the towing bill. That’s what they asked for, that’s what they wanted.”

Neither Turner nor Johnson has any paper documentation of their agreement. According to police, Turner admitted to having the gun, but refuses to return it.

Police say this case will go to the Franklin County Prosecutor. The prosecutor could charge Turner with felony theft of a firearm, or it could be referred to civil court to settle the dispute.