By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
A Sundance tow truck owner has been charged with theft, accused of taking tools and other items from the wreckage of a pickup truck belonging to a man killed in an accident.
Norman “Gus” Sampson of Iron Horse Towing has been issued a citation for theft in connection with allegations he stole items from the pickup truck of Shon Engel after Engel was killed Aug. 1 in a single-car accident near Sundance.
For Shon’s brother Jim, it wasn’t the alleged theft of his brother’s belongings that mattered to him as much as efforts to keep those items from being returned to his grieving family.
“You just don’t do that,” the Gillette resident told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s not right, and I’m going to keep fighting.”
Jim Engel had been at a rodeo in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, when he got the call from his father that his younger brother, 41-year-old Shon, had been killed.
Engel immediately headed to Sundance to meet with law enforcement officers and make funeral and other arrangements, including recovering Shon’s possessions from his badly damaged pickup truck.
Engel said his brother was a mechanic who kept hundreds of dollars in tools in his truck along with other valuables.
A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper responded to the crash site and called Sampson of Iron Horse Towing in Sundance to come tow the vehicle.
As part of his investigation, the trooper took photographs of the crash site where Shon’s possessions had been thrown from the vehicle, documenting a $200 pair Maui Jim sunglasses, a red Yeti cup Shon’s parents had just purchased for him, a large knife that Jim Engel said his brother had been proud of, a chair and lots tools and loose change scattered around the scene.
A couple of days later, Engel said he called Sampson to ask about the towing bill and about retrieving his brother’s possessions. Engel was told the bill was $750 for the tow and the three hours it took Sampson to collect all of the belongings from the field. Engel said that Sampson told him that all of Shon’s possessions would be placed in the back of his pickup truck.
Engel said he would stop by on Aug. 6, the day of his brother’s memorial service, to pay the bill and get the belongings.
“I really wanted to locate the Yeti cup and the knife for my parents to have a memory,” he said.
Nothing In The Truck
When Engel and his 15-year-old daughter stopped by to pay Sampson, he said they noticed there was nothing in the back of the truck. Engel drove up to Sampson’s shop, handed him the cash, and asked about his brother’s belongings.
Engel said Sampson then told him he hadn’t been able to find anything.
Engle told investigators that when he went into the shop, he saw the Red Yeti cup sitting on a table and spotted a large pile of tools and Shon’s knife sticking out of a red toolbox.
When questioned, Engel said Sampson reported he had forgotten about the items and Engel could take them.
When Engel continued looking around the shop, he found more of his brother’s belongings.
He told investigators he asked Sampson to gather up all the tools belonging to his brother, but Sampson continued to say that there were no other items and that he’d put everything belonging to Shon in the back of the truck, according to the incident report by the Crook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).
According to the report, when questioned by Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Kaminski, Sampson said he had placed everything belonging to Shon in the back of the vehicle. He added that Engel and Watt had repeatedly harassed him and threatened to beat him up if they didn’t get the possessions back.
Kaminski informed Sampson there was photographic evidence of the accident site showing all of Shon’s possessions.
Sampson said he didn’t know where the items were and that maybe Engel had taken them when he was rummaging around in the truck, the report said.
He then went to his wrecker and lifted the drop deck where Shon Engel’s Maui Jim sunglasses were found sitting in a bed box underneath the deck, the report said, along with a hammer also belonging to Shon.
Sampson said that the items must have just been placed in the box during the cleanup on scene, according to the report.
The report said about 20 minutes later, Sampson contacted the CCSO to report finding a few more of Shon’s items, including several sockets, a hammer, crescent wrench and other tools.
According to an email provided by Engel from the Crook County Attorney’s Office, defense attorneys have requested a jury trial which is scheduled for June 24.