07/21/2024

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Valerie Traglor-Ellis, appears inset on the left against an image of John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas

Woman allegedly steals mortuary van with dead body inside before ditching vehicle and corpse at nearby zoo

Inset left: Valerie Traglor-Ellis appears in a booking photo (Fort Worth Police Department); Main image: John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Tex. (Google Maps)

A Texas woman was arrested this week for allegedly stealing a mortuary van containing a dead body from outside a hospital.

Valerie Traglor-Ellis, 36, who hails from the rural Fort Worth suburb of Azle, stands accused of one count each of automobile theft and abuse of a corpse, according to the Fort Worth Police Department.

The incident in question unfolded on Tuesday night at around 7 p.m. when officers first received a report about a vehicle that was stolen from one of the numerous parking lots of John Peter Smith Hospital on South Main Street. Largely known for its emergency room and psychiatric services, the trauma center colloquially referred to as “JPS” by Fort Worth residents is a publicly-funded hospital run by Tarrant County and located in the heart of the city’s aptly-named Hospital District.

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    When officers arrived, they learned a mortuary transport van driver left his vehicle — and his deceased charge — in order to pick up another body from inside the hospital, according to police. When he returned, however, both the van and the dead individual inside were gone.

    “While the driver was inside the hospital, the suspect, an adult female, entered the van without permission of the driver and fled the parking lot,” a Fort Worth police spokesperson told Law&Crime.

    The van was located a short while later roughly two miles due west on Park Place Avenue — a long, sloping, and hilly backstreet that forms most of the eastern border of the massive, 64-acre Fort Worth Zoo.

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    “The stolen vehicle and the body of the deceased were subsequently located and recovered intact without damage,” police said.

    Surveillance footage allegedly showed the defendant leaving the van and running away, according to Dallas-based Fox affiliate KDFW.

    “The suspect was located a short time later and taken into custody without incident and transported to the Fort Worth City Jail,” police said. “The vehicle and the deceased person being transported were released to the driver of the mortuary service.”

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    A motive for the incident is currently unknown and law enforcement are not publicly speculating about the alleged thefts.

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    The post Woman allegedly steals mortuary van with dead body inside before ditching vehicle and corpse at nearby zoo first appeared on Law & Crime.