Police nab the wrong Childress

September 30, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

VALPARAISO, Ind. -- Two Porter County women share the same name. One, Sandra K. Childress, is wanted by police. But the other Sandra K. Childress was arrested.

"I told them I didn't do it. I told them to check out their computer. They wouldn't listen to me," said Sandra K. Childress, 44, of Valparaiso, who has been an Allstate Insurance agent here for eight years.

Ms. Childress was held by police for almost four hours last weekend until she persuaded Porter County jailers to check their records closer and confirm that the wrong Childress was in custody. Her argument was bolstered by one of her insurance customers at the jail who vouched for her identity.

The Sandra K. Childress police want was born in 1955, lives in Portage and failed to appear for a court hearing in July.

Judge Mary R. Harper issued a warrant for Ms. Childress' arrest Aug. 25. The warrant included a Portage address and states that the Social Security number of the suspect is unknown.

But when insurance agent Ms. Childress was stopped Saturday in Griffith, it was her address, her Social Security number and her 1948 birthdate that the police dispatcher read from the computer. That was the beginning of her encounter.

"If one of my insured hadn't been in at the jail, I'd still be there," she said. "I don't want this to happen to anyone who is innocent. You think you have rights until something like this happens. . . . I was just outraged."

"I had never been handcuffed in my life. They took mug shots of me. They dumped my purse, searched my purse, searched me. It just kept getting worse," Ms. Childress recalled.

Porter County Police Chief Robert Herring said the warrant information was taken from a police report that had the wrong Ms. Childress' birthdate on it. That mistake led a computer operator to include other wrong Ms. Childress information into the computer. That led to Sandra Childress' arrest Saturday morning.

"When they finally found out, the police apologized and took me back. One of them asked me, 'We were nice to you, weren't we?' and I said, 'If you call being treated like a criminal and being called a liar nice,' " Ms. Childress said.

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