Woman Gets Car, Groceries Towed Away

MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio - You had better hope that you never get your car towed after you hear what happened to one local family. The Investigator, Tom Meyer, had the story that you could have only seen on Action News.

Donna Miller had to figure out how to feed her 1-month-old and 8-year-old sons this month after police had her vehicle towed with all of her groceries in the trunk.

Miller, who is on public assistance, said that $350 worth of groceries that she had just bought for the month were locked up in her car when police had the vehicle towed after discovering that she was driving on a suspended license.

"Everything was destroyed, spoiled," Miller said. "The towing company wouldn't let me get the food out of the trunk."

To get her family's food back, Miller had to pay Schade's Towing $105.

"I told her she could get her food if she paid storage and towing for one day," Schade's owner, Norm Schade, said.

After being told of Miller's plight, Schade said that he was simply trying to collect a fee before she might have abandoned her car in his towing lot -- something that she had no intention of doing.

At least half of her food, including meat, poultry, milk and baby food, sat in 100-degree heat for 15 hours before she was able to pay the recovery fee the next day. The Board of Health said that it was too dangerous to eat, so she wisely threw it away.

"I think it's awful," Miller said. "I don't think it should happen to anyone."

The food was not being held as evidence in a criminal case. Consequently, Maple Heights Police felt that the food should have been released with no strings attached the day the car was towed.

The towing company, however, said that it has gotten burned repeatedly by people who have abandon their cars after they've been towed. But after talking with Action News, Schade said he realizes that might not be the case with Miller and her two young children.

"I'll pay for her food if she comes down and gets her car," Schade said.

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Action News Gets Quick Action

Miller returned to Schade's after the company promised that they would pay her for the groceries that were destroyed in the high heat.

Schade kept his promise just four days after he was confronted. He told Action News that he had no idea Miller was in such bad shape financially.

Schade reimbursed Miller $150 -- money for the groceries that spoiled.

"Next time, if there's food in the car, we'll take it right out and give it to the owner," Schade said.

Miller was grateful both to Schade and to Action News.

"I appreciate it so much," Miller said. "Thank you Action News."

Miller said that she is still trying to scrape together enough money to pay the daily storage fees charged by the towing garage. For now, she's comforted in knowing she has enough money to feed her family.