The Millsaps family was leaving a Smokies game on July 15 around 11 p.m. when their van had to be left on I-40 West at Strawberry Plains Pike after it had overheated. When Wesley Millsaps returned to fix the van, it was gone according to a police report. The van was adapted to accommodate their son Mason, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy. It also contained his specialized stroller chair.
Shortly after the vehicle was reported stolen, a witness told police that Joseph Scott, Paula Johnson, and Larry Haynes were seen pushing the van into the junk yard, but the chair was missing from inside. The witness told police that they pushed the van to the junk yard scrap the van for $350. Police obtained a copy of the bill of sale that was signed by Richards and Scott.
On July 19, around 10:30 a.m., Officer P’Simer responded to a report of a suspicious person around 7406 Strawberry Plains Pike according to police report. The caller told Officer P’Simer that she observed Scott and Johnson pushing a red handicap chair that she had recalled seeing on a Knoxville Crime page. She said she had seen them push the chair into the wood line behind 7414 Strawberry Plains Pike. As the chair was loaded into the police cruiser, witnesses pointed across the street to the Wendy’s. where Scott and Johnson were.
Police said Scott told them that he and Johnson had “found” the chair and both were pushing it through Strawberry Plains Pike. They were both arrested according to the police report. Investigators advised that Haynes had used a blue van to push the stolen van into the junk yard had been pointed out by witnesses, and police saw him travelling south.
Police stopped Haynes, who could not provide a driver’s license, and he was taken into custody. According to police, a database check revealed that Haynes’s license was revoked. Police also spoke to Richards who was in the back seat of the van. In a search of the van, officers found a small blue purse containing several needle syringes in the back seat where Richards was sitting, and she was arrested as well.
All four were charged with two counts of felony theft. Richards received an additional charge of misdemeanor public intoxication and Johnson received an additional charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.