University Staff Solve the Mystery of the Missing Purse

May 9, 2017 at 11:46 am

Photo by Dr. Carol Loar/chair of the Department of History, Political Science, Philosophy and American Studies

Workers performing renovations on the third floor of the Media Center recently discovered a purse, missing for more than three decades, hidden in the ceiling.

According to University of South Carolina Upstate Assistant Chief of Police David Myers, the lady’s purse had been “secreted” above a section of ceiling tiles in the early 1980s. The purse contained many mundane items such as hair clips, postage stamps and family photos, plus a driver’s license and even a credit card.

What it didn’t contain, Myers said, was any cash: “There were about three pennies in it.”

The discovery of the purse created a mystery for campus police: While there were several pieces of identification, including the SCDL and a VISA credit card, after more than 30 years, none of the contact information was valid. All police had was the name of a former University employee who had left USC Upstate around 1985.

“We started going through all the contents – everybody was trying to see if we could get a current (telephone) number, because all of the numbers listed in the purse were outdated and no longer in service,” Myers said. “We were coming up with dead end after dead end, and Sgt. (Hannah) Stoever finally found an emergency-contact name, which was (the victim’s) sister.”

Stoever was able to contact the victim’s sister through Facebook, and she helped campus police get in touch with her sibling, who, through the years, had married and changed her name, and moved to Utah. Myers said on May 9 that the purse and its contents have been shipped to its rightful owner.

“It’s kind of an unusual case, and I credit Sgt. Stoever with having the wherewithal to do that much investigation to find her,” Myers said. “To be honest, in most departments when you get something that old and that cold, it just ends up in (found) property and it sits there until you purge it. I was quite impressed with it – I thought she did an outstanding job.”

Myers said that, in addition to Stoever’s efforts, University police force members Paula Brewster and Glynda Miller were invaluable in the effort to return the purse to its owner.

But how did the handbag wind up in what it turned out to be an excellent hiding place? The police suspect foul play.

“Apparently, at some point, (the victim’s) purse was stolen; she just knew it was missing,” Myers said. “Our supposition on it is that whoever took it put it up in the ceiling so it wouldn’t be found in the trash or they wouldn’t be caught with it. They removed all the money, but they left all the ID and everything else in there, so it wasn’t like they were a total jerk, they were just a thief.”