A north suburban woman is questioning why an Illinois State Police trooper didn't return her purse containing a $50,000 watch and hundreds of dollars after she was involved in a harrowing accident on the Edens Expy.
Cassandra Bauer, 25, was driving to her parents' home in upscale Bannockburn at about 2 a.m. on Nov. 11 after spending the prior evening with friends in Wrigleyville, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Bauer lost control of her mother's Mercedes G550 and collided with another vehicle, according to the Illinois State Police. She crashed through a fence along the northbound lanes of the highway and landed upside down in the parking lot of the Edens Plaza in Wilmette.
Bauer was charged with driving under the influence, speeding and improper lane usage. She and the driver of the other vehicle were treated at hospitals and released.
While Bauer was recovering at Evanston Hospital, her mother Abbe Bauer began looking for her purse.
Abbe Bauer, whose family owns a food-supply company, said the purse contained an 18-carat gold de Grisogono watch that retails for about $50,000; about $700 in cash; gold rings and other jewelry; and keys to their home.
Abbe Bauer said a trooper who was at the accident scene told her over the phone that he didn't know what happened to the purse. Bauer said she searched the scene and went through the wrecked Mercedes, but didn't find it.
Bauer said she was then told that a Wilmette fire official had handed the purse to the trooper at the scene. She said she also learned the trooper told his supervisors that he left the purse at the scene.
"The trooper had her driver's license," Abbe Bauer said. "How did the purse just disappear?"
Abbe Bauer said she's willing to pay $5,000 to anyone who will return the purse and its contents.
On Nov. 15, Cassandra Bauer filed a complaint against the trooper, questioning why he didn't return the purse to her and accusing him of being rude to her at the hospital.
"It really doesn't make sense that he would switch his story countless times unless he's lieing [sic]," the complaint said.
Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the state police, wouldn't comment on the trooper's actions except to say the agency is investigating the complaint. "No disciplinary action has been taken at this time," she said.
Bond said normal procedure is for a trooper to return such property to the owner at the hospital, or inventory it.
But the state police investigation isn't limited to the trooper. Others at the accident scene — including the tow-truck drivers — also will be interviewed about the purse, a source said.
The Chicago Sun-Times isn't naming the trooper because he's not charged with any criminal misconduct.
He's facing an unrelated lawsuit involving the death of Diana Paz more than two years ago. The trooper is accused of failing to protect Paz after she was arrested for driving under the influence.
The trooper stopped Paz for driving the wrong way on the Eisenhower Expy. at about 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2011. Paz, who failed field sobriety tests, bonded out of the Westchester Police Department at about 5 a.m.
According to police, Paz said she didn't have any transportation and asked for a ride to a gas station. The trooper dropped her at a BP station near the expressway.
The lawsuit said Paz was still drunk when she walked down a ramp onto the Eisenhower east of Mannheim. She was apparently looking for her car when a truck struck and killed her, according to a court filing by attorneys for Paz's family.