Cops Fail To Notice Dead Body In Towed Truck Of Wanted Man
Even though he tried to kill her earlier this year, Samantha Phillips-Fulkerson, 33, said she didn’t want her husband to end up dead.
But he did. The body of Richard A. Fulkerson II, 38, was found in the covered bed of his pickup truck Thursday afternoon after he had been missing for more than a month.
His wife said she guesses that when police found the truck in Henderson and had it towed back to Evansville on Jan. 11, they just assumed it had been abandoned.
“But it blows me away that they never looked in the back,” she said.
The truck was parked on the West Franklin Street lot of Sterling United Federal Credit Union, which had repossessed on Feb. 3. Fulkerson’s body was found underneath the locked hard-shell bed cover.
On Friday, Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin defended officers for not searching the truck. Though police had the vehicle towed, a search warrant was never obtained for it. At the time, Bolin noted, police weren’t looking for a missing person. Fulkerson was a wanted suspect who was guaranteed certain constitutional rights, he said. Investigators had already obtained an arrest warrant for Fulkerson and did not see a need to search the truck.
“We were working a case that we had solved, and we were looking for a suspect. So knowing what we know now, yeah you wish you would have (searched), but they did what they should have done,” Bolin said. “I’m not sure they even could have gotten a search warrant. What were we looking for? Basically, we were protecting Richard Fulkerson’s constitutional rights.”
Phillips-Fulkerson said she was overwhelmed and aggravated when she heard her husband’s body was found in the back of the truck.
“I wonder if he was even alive when they towed it?” she asked.
Phillips-Fulkerson said Friday she “was for sure that he had hurt himself” after he stabbed her on Jan. 10. She said the couple often stayed at the Sugar Creek Inn on the U.s. 41 Strip in Henderson. Even before she received medical treatment, Phillips-Fulkerson said she told a detective that it was possible Fulkerson went there to hurt himself.
“That was our place we went whenever we were alone together,” Phillips-Fulkerson said. “And so I told the detective before I even got in the ambulance, he has taken a bunch of medication, I’m afraid he’s going to hurt himself.”
Fulkerson’s truck, was discovered in the parking lot of the Super 8 Motel, across U.S. 41 from the Sugar Creek Inn, two hours later, police said.
When discovered Thursday, the body didn’t show any signs of decomposition and there was no odor, he said.
Even though Phillips-Fulkerson knew her husband could have harmed himself, she said she had still felt uneasy since the night of the stabbing with Fulkerson missing.
“I’ve been petrified,” she said. “I didn’t want my kids to go outside...Everybody was a little nervous that he was still alive, and people were telling me to be careful and watch my back.”
The big question now is why did it take so long to find him?
We can't know exactly what happened, but police say they have a pretty good idea.
As for why the back of that truck hadn't been searched earlier, they say they never expected they would find Fulkerson's body there.
"You learn something new all the time. I've never encountered a case like this," said Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin. "It was on nobody's mind that there may be a body in the back of the vehicle."
That's exactly what police found themselves investigating Thursday afternoon after getting a 911 call from Sterling Federal Credit Union.
"It looked like Richard had kind of made a bed in the back of the truck. There was a comforter back there, smoked a couple cigarettes and it appears at this time, we won't know until we get the toxicology reports, but it appears to be an overdose."
The question many now want answered is why didn't police look in the back of the truck before?
Bolin says police never requested a search warrant because at the time, they thought they had all the evidence they needed for their case.
"The crime scene happened at a house, all the evidence we needed was in the house. We had a victim who was still alive who gave a statement," Bolin said.
Now, looking back on things, it's a different story.
"With hindsight, I mean, now that we know we have a body in the truck, yeah you would want to look, but do I think our detectives did anything wrong? Absolutely not," Bolin said.
The Coroner's Office is awaiting toxicology results before announcing an official cause of death, but they do list the time of death early in the morning of January 11th, the day after Fulkerson was accused of stabbing his wife.