ABI investigation ruled inconclusive

Published 12:26 am Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation examination into the disappearance of money taken in a 2003 police raid was found to be inconclusive.

The investigation sought to find out what happened to approximately $15,000 in cash that was discovered to be missing in a 2009 audit of the City of Demopolis. Demopolis police chief Tommie Reese recommended to the city council that the ABI be brought in as a neutral investigating party, and the council took that action.

“They way it came up was, there was a questionable item in the 2009 audit,” said Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson. “Someone said, ‘That reminds me of this, that happened a year or two years before.’ As it turned out there was a simple, logical explanation for the original item; a deposit was labeled to the wrong account.

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“That is what raised everyone’s awareness level. Otherwise, we never would have known about it.”

The money was taken from Danny’s Place on Washington Street in Demopolis as part of a countywide raid on gambling establishments that paid cash prizes on May 30, 2003. That raid netted about 150 gambling machines and $30,000 in cash countywide.

The money confiscated from Danny’s Place — about $15,000 — was stored as evidence at the Demopolis police station. Danny’s was later reimbursed by the city, but there was no “paper trail” of the evidence placed in the station that later was found to be missing.

“We took the money and, by court order, we refunded the money,” said Grayson. “Later, the money was not found in the safe. But, as a result of Tommie Reese’s appointment as police chief, he now has systems in place to alleviate these problems in the future.”

Grayson added that the chief of police at the time, Charles Avery, has since passed away, and he would have been someone who could have assisted with the ABI investigation.

“There could very well be a very logical, simple answer to it,” Grayson said, “but the answer is, Chief Avery is deceased.”

Jeff Manuel — the current director of campus safety at the University of West Alabama who was the public safety director for Demopolis at the time of the raid — said on Friday that he had participated in the ABI investigation.

“As far as I’m concerned, the investigation is closed,” Grayson said. “Otherwise, where do we go with it? The trail is cold, so to speak.”

The Demopolis City Council has called a special session for May 31 to discuss the investigation in executive session.