Sevier Co. couple seeks public’s help in finding stolen tow truck that had been in family for years

Investigations

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — In Sevier County, an unusual vehicle was stolen from the parking lot of a Pigeon Forge hotel recently.

The vehicle was a tow truck, red in color. The couple who owned it watched it disappear, but they couldn’t catch the thieves before it was gone. They’re now reaching out to the community for help.

Pigeon Forge Police say stealing this type of vehicle was brazen, especially in a well-lit parking lot. Unfortunately, there’s no video of the theft, but the couple did watch the unidentified driver escape on a back road.

For Jay and Jana Smith, their main means of income has been stolen. It is their newly refurbished tow truck taken from a hotel parking lot.

“Me and her dad totally went through the motor, all the hydraulics on it,” Jay Smith, tow truck owner, said. “This is our money. It’s the way we make our living. We want our truck back.”

The couple operates J&J Towing Recovery in Sevier County. When their home’s hot water heater broke on the night of Jan. 13, they checked into a hotel in Pigeon Forge.

“We took the truck with us. He had a tow the next morning. So it was easier to go from there to backtrack to our home,” Jana Smith said.

The couple had been in their room about two hours when Jana heard the distinctive sound of their truck’s diesel engine — and the truck had been locked.

“I’m sitting on the balcony, I hear the truck crank. I look up the headlights are on. I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, somebody is in our truck.’ So with that, I take off running down the steps calling 911,” Jana Smith said.

“We (witnessed the theft), off the 5th-floor balcony. When she told me, I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s leaving, it’s leaving!’ By the time I get to the parking lot, the truck is gone, completely vanished, disappeared, no sign of it. It went Sugar Hollow Road, out of sight,” Jay Smith said. “We never saw it again.  We called. Within 2-minutes and 39 seconds, we had to City of Pigeon Forge (Police) there at the location. They responded very quickly.”

You don’t hear very often of a tow truck being stolen.

“This was very unusual. That’s what the investigator had told us,” Jana Smith said. “This was very unusual, I think he said the first he had ever worked of this type.”

Their candy apple red 1997 GMC diesel was a model that did not include an electronic ignition that year — making it easy to hot wire.

I don’t understand how it just vanishes? There are cameras. This town has them on every red light on every building. We don’t understand,” Jay Smith said.

In Pigeon Forge, motels line each side of the busy Parkway. On average, highway records show 55,000 vehicles daily travel on this road.

Over the last three years, local records show the number of stolen vehicles has gone down in the resort community from 66 stolen in 2018, to 41 in 2019, and even lower in 2020 to 39 stolen vehicles.

  Jay and Jana are offering a reward for their truck’s safe return.

“We have a four-thousand dollar cash reward on the truck,” Jana Smith said. “Not that we can afford to put the money out. But that four thousand brings back our source of income.”

“What we would like to do is get it back,” Jay Smith said. “We look to get it back.”

Jana said the truck had been in her family for years. Her father and Jay had recently refurbished it inside and out. Again, the truck had been locked but it was without an electronic ignition, which was not included in 1997 GMC diesel trucks.

The couple is hoping their reward will be an incentive to contact police if the tow truck is located.

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