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W.Va. School Building chief’s state car still missing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly two months after state School Building Authority Executive Director Mark Manchin reported that his state-owned vehicle was stolen from the parking garage at the Charleston Marriott Town Center, police continue to investigate and the vehicle remains missing.

Surveillance video does not show Manchin’s state vehicle ever entering or leaving the parking garage on April 27, the Sunday night that Manchin reported the theft, according to a Charleston police incident report released Monday.

Also, a Charleston patrol officer said Manchin incorrectly reported the make of the car and the vehicle’s license number — an allegation that Manchin disputes.

“I drove it to the Marriott, parked it in the parking garage, came back, and it was gone,” Manchin said Monday. “It’s that simple. It’s nothing nefarious.”

Manchin told police he left his state-assigned vehicle unlocked and placed the keys under the front seat.

“They’re the big, bulky type of keys, so I didn’t want to put them in my pocket,” Manchin recalled Monday. “I just put them under the seat, which I’ve done a thousand times.

“I thought it was safe in the Marriott parking garage. I would have never dreamt they would have taken it out of the Marriott parking garage.”

Manchin said he parked his car at the Marriott before having dinner at a nearby restaurant, The Chop House, with several members of the state School Building Authority. The next morning, the board met formally and distributed state grant funds for school construction projects in West Virginia.

“I always meet with the authority members the evening before for a little dinner,” Manchin said Monday in a telephone interview while attending a conference in Georgia.

After dinner at The Chop House on April 27, Manchin said he returned to the parking garage, couldn’t find his state car, and reported the four-door sedan missing to Marriott security.

Before contacting police, Manchin and a Marriott loss-prevention officer reviewed surveillance video but found no footage of the car exiting the parking garage.

“We looked at the film,” Manchin said. “It never came out of the parking garage. At least we never saw it.”

Manchin said the surveillance video does show him walking out of the Marriott garage before heading to The Chop House. He said the footage also showed a possible glimpse of his state car entering the parking garage.

“You can see the wheels go by,” Manchin said. “They don’t have a camera where the cars come into the parking garage. They only have a camera on where the cars come out of the parking garage.”

Later that night, Manchin called Charleston police to report the theft. He told Patrol Officer J.W. Butts the stolen state vehicle was a silver-colored Ford Taurus, according to the incident report.

Butts, however, discovered the missing vehicle was a Ford Fusion, the report states.

 “I attempted to run the registration provided by Mr. Manchin only to find out that was not the registration for the vehicle,” Butts wrote in his report…

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