Archive for Sunday, February 22, 2004

Basketballs still missing after probe by KBI, sheriff

February 22, 2004


Four months after a Douglas County Sheriff's deputy came under suspicion of stealing a set of autographed basketballs from an area home, the whereabouts of the balls remain a mystery.

Sheriff Rick Trapp said he could not speak about details of the case and would say only that the deputy involved wasn't assigned to law-enforcement duties pending its resolution. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the matter at Trapp's request, is running out of leads, a spokesman said.

"Unless we get some sort of break, I'm not sure anybody's going to be charged," special agent Kyle Smith said. "It's always nice if you have an eyewitness. Absent that, it's hard to prove exactly who did what when. (There are) no eyewitnesses, and the forensics and interviews have not gotten us to where we want to be."

However, Smith would not elaborate on any other details of the investigation, such as whether there is more than one suspect.

The basketballs -- one signed by Wilt Chamberlain, one by members of Kansas University's 1988 men's national championship team, and another signed by the 1997-98 KU men's team -- were taken Oct. 2 from a home in the 1000 section of East 1400 Road south of Lawrence.

On Friday, Trapp would not identify the deputy suspected in the theft or say whether he or she had been disciplined. He said the agency had conducted an "appropriate internal investigation," but that he couldn't give any details of what it entailed or revealed.

"Any time allegations are made against law enforcement, it's terribly troublesome, and it calls into question in the public's eyes the credibility of the agency," he said. "I wish I could go into more detail, but I can't for legal and ethical reasons. But I can assure the public that we have taken all the appropriate action ... and asked another agency to conduct a certain investigation."

Sheriff's officials have said they thought the home was left unlocked the day of the theft. Trapp said he later received information that caused him to ask for the KBI investigation. He has declined to indicate whether the suspected deputy was on duty at the time of the theft.

Members of the family who owned the balls and reported the theft have declined comment several times.

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