HPD auctions off murder victim's belongings

September 14, 2010 4:37:48 AM PDT
Her daughter was the victim in a homicide case, but what has a Houston mother angry is what police did with her daughter's belongings from the crime scene. Now, HPD is reviewing its policies. The department admits something went wrong. Now, it's trying to figure out exactly what.

Sharon Russell's daughter was the victim in a homicide case. She claims everyone she talked to at HPD is trying to pass the buck. Russell says she is so frustrated she's now threatening legal action against the police department.

Three years ago, 36-year-old Tara Sganga died under suspicious circumstances, and all the grieving Russell had left was a few keepsakes.

"There was a silver ring that I was going to keep for myself in remembrance of Tara," Russell said.

Russell says she tried getting her daughter's belongings from HPD but was told they were being held as evidence in the property room and that she could have them back once the case was closed. That would take another three years.

Charges were filed against Shawn Roberts, Sganga's boyfriend, but on September 2, a jury cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.

When Russell called Houston police last week to ask about Sganga's possessions, she says an investigator told her they were sold at an auction a year and a half ago -- long before the trial.

"I was completely, completely devastated. I had nothing of hers," Russell said.

That's because several days after Sganga died, someone broke into her apartment and took everything. The items in the property room were all that remained. Police recovered them in Sganga's car, which had also been stolen. Russell was furious and started asking questions.

"I was thrown around like a rubber ball -- number after number after number," Russell said.

HPD says it's taking the family's concerns very seriously and admits personal property may have been released prematurely.

"There is a possibility that proper procedures were not followed...the department has launched an internal affairs investigation into this matter," HPD said in a statement.

That's of little comfort to Russell, who is heartbroken.

"Why wasn't I called to come and get the items back, why?" she asked.

HPD says it is working right now to track down the whereabouts of Sganga's personal belongings to see if any of it can be recovered.

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