Omaha theft victim frustrated over new car on hold for homicide investigation

‘My car is in jail’
A Nebraska man says his car is in jail due to a homicide investigation. (Souce: WOWT)
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Imagine the anxiety of discovering your nearly new car has been stolen, followed by the relief of a call from the police that it’s been recovered almost intact.

But instead of gratitude, Omaha car theft victim Sean Yakopec feels frustration. He said feels victimized by two crimes as his stolen car is held as evidence for an unsolved homicide investigation.

Somewhere behind the locked gates of the city impound lot sits a 2022 Kia that belongs to him, but he can’t see or touch it.

“(It’s) like my car is in jail, and I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong for it,” Yakopec said.

Impound lot manager Reggie Johnson had an explanation.

“It’s homicide and auto theft hold for Omaha Police Department,” Johnson said.

A murder two weeks ago at 52nd and Curtis is unsolved, but detectives must believe a stolen Kia Sportage is involved because Yakopec can’t get his back.

“They want to use it as evidence, so I don’t understand why they want to go ahead and keep the car when they can just take pictures of the car, and take fingerprints, and do whatever they need to, and give me the car back,” Yakopec said.

Omaha Police said they can’t reveal details of a murder investigation.

“I was in homicide for seven years,” Officer Chris Gordon said, telling 6 News that a recovered car has to be held as evidence in a murder case — often through trial.

“Losing a homicide due to a technicality by, say, the release of evidence or piece of property back to its rightful owner could be paramount to the outcome of a homicide investigation. Some defense attorneys will ask to see the vehicle to physically prove this was the vehicle used in the case being investigated.”

With a broken window and a hacked ignition, all Yakopec has from his 2022 Kia are the keys. So, he would like to retrieve sunglasses and a few personal items from the recovered stolen car.

“They have to do an investigation forensics prints all of that. If you go back and touch that car you’ve compromised, it,” Johnson said.

Omaha Police say a recovered stolen vehicle possibly used in a homicide isn’t completely untouchable.

“It’s possible to release those smaller items, but the vehicle has to stay with us,” Gordon said.

The shooting death of Alon Reed, 19, is an active investigation. Any tips leading to the arrest of a homicide suspect can earn up to a $2,500 dollar reward through Omaha Crime Stoppers.

But with no arrests and a trial that’s nowhere in sight — for how long?

“I put my savings into this car, and I have nothing to show for it now,” Yakopec said.

Yet his car payments are still due.

While his 2022 Kia with just 10,000 miles is on hold and sits behind the locked fence at the impound lot, Yakopec said that even though he’s been told there’s little damage, he’s been talking to his insurance company about totaling out the vehicle.

And while insurance payments for a rental car might end in about two weeks, Yakopec said his patience on the release of his Kia has already run out.

“It’s easier for my mental health to just be done with the car,” he said.