• 72°

Paper carrier gets his ride back

A newspaper carrier is back behind the wheel of his car after police in Houston, Texas recovered the stolen vehicle.

James Smith, a carrier for The Daily Leader for 40 years, is back on the job in his red 2015 Toyota Corolla after a 3 a.m. phone call from the Houston Police Department told him his missing ride had been found. Porter’s Body Shop sent a wrecker to Houston to fetch Smith’s car, which was returned to him a little dirty, and with a few stains, but without any major damage.

“But, you talking about stinkin’ — Good God, Almighty. That son of a gun stunk, man,” Smith said. “I don’t know what Porter’s did to get that funk out of there, but they did a good job.”

Smith, 67, had his car stolen from the newspaper’s parking lot while he loaded it with papers for the morning rounds before 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 8. He had left the engine running and three doors open while he filled it with bundles of newspapers, and when he turned to the van to grab the next armful, his car drove out into the street and disappeared.

Brookhaven Police quickly identified the suspect as Brookhaven’s Olian James Smith II, 47, of 301 Montgomery St., after spotting him in the Corolla on surveillance footage while investigating a separate case. They issued a felony warrant for Smith II for auto burglary, identify theft and uttering forgery, entered the vehicle into the National Crime Information Center and alerted police in Houston.

Houston Police Department Spokesperson Jodi Silva said her officers found the car during a routine license plate check at 1:45 a.m. at 2900 Napoleon St., which is in the Greater Third Ward, just southeast of downtown. When officers ran the numbers, the plate on Smith’s Corolla came back to a 1996 Jeep Cherokee.

“The guy who was driving said he just bought the car from a friend he’s known for many years, for $500. He showed a hand-written bill of sale,” Silva said. “There were two other people in the vehicle — one of them was arrested for having outstanding warrants. The driver was not arrested because he’s agreed to work with investigators on how he came to be in possession of a stolen vehicle.”

Silva said officers found clothes and narcotics in the car, which the unidentified driver said belonged to the person who sold him the vehicle.

Smith said his car contained clothes, duffel bags, a clothes iron, photographs and a birth certificate belonging to Smith II when he picked it up from Porter’s. He said he offered it all to Brookhaven police, but trashed it after they declined to accept.

“He’d been living in it,” Smith said. “It’s a weird situation. I didn’t figure I’d get my car back. The insurance company told me I’d get it back, and I didn’t believe them. Then, sure enough, it come around.”

Smith said he would continue delivering The Daily Leader to vendors in the area, but would be more careful from now on.

“I ain’t gonna be as complacent as I was. That broke me,” he said.