Special Report: Violated on Vacation?

WAVY-TV 10

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A family visiting the Virginia Beach Oceanfront got a lot more than they bargained for when they checked into their motel.

The Wallace family from Pittsburgh says a few days into their stay at the Knights Inn on 29th Street, they noticed a camera hidden below the bathroom counter and above the toilet.

“The second day we were there, my husband had called me into the bathroom. He found a video camera hidden in our bathroom recording myself, my husband, my son, my youngest daughter,” said Angie Wallace.

She says she was so angry that she pulled the camera out and slammed it onto the counter at the front desk.

“Did absolutely nothing. They made no effort to do anything. I eventually ended up calling police myself,” Wallace says.

The incident happened on Memorial Day weekend. Four months later, Wallace says police have still not given her any answers. She wants to know why it’s taking so long and says she worries about whether any photos or videos were taken and where they might be now.

“I’m most worried… because we don’t even know if it was streamed on the internet. We don’t know who’s seen it. We don’t know if anybody’s seen it. It may be contained to the camera, anything,” Wallace says. “I worry about my kids, especially my little girl. It’s aggravating.”

That’s why Angie Wallace reached out to 10 On Your Side.

“That’s what bugs me the most. We don’t know. We have no answers, nothing.”

WAVY’s Deanna LeBlanc took the Wallace family’s concerns to the police and to hotel management. The owner of the Knights Inn tells 10 On Your Side he did not notice any wires in the room, so he presumes the camera was wireless. He says his housekeeping staff did not notice the camera in the room prior to the Wallace’s visit, but that like the Wallace family, he wants answers from police.

Police Public Affairs Officer Linda Kuehn declined to speak on camera about why the investigation is taking many months. She did explain that in fact, four months after they took the camera, detectives still can’t even say if any photos snapped. They still haven’t seen the evidence.

So 10 On Your Side asked again for an interview. We wanted police to explain the process of a forensics investigation like the Wallace’s case. Why does it take so long? They again declined.

In an email, Kuehn wrote that the police department has “a very limited number of technicians” qualified to recover that data.  And that “any other crime that may have recorded evidence,” like robberies and homicides, “would take precedence.”

Kuehn said she was “sorry” if we didn’t think that was enough, but that the department “cannot jeopardize a potential criminal investigation for the sake of your story.”

Tell that to the mother worried about her family’s privacy, violated while on vacation.

“To me, with a young child being involved, it’s pretty important,” Wallace said.

Here’s the full email from Police Public Affairs Officer Linda Kuehn:

I understand that the victim in this case has contacted you regarding this, however, she has not returned any of the phone calls from the detective working the case (there have been multiple calls to her, and we keep documentation of such), nor has she made any attempt to contact any other individual within the police department to either make a complaint, or voice her displeasure to us in any way.

The forensic side of things is not as simple as just removing an SD card from a device, plugging it in and looking at the contents. The technicians are responsible for preserving every fragment of evidence that may be on the device, and they need to recover said evidence without risk of losing anything. We will not go into precisely how that is done because that is all part of the investigation.

We also have a very limited number of technicians who are qualified in doing such recoveries, and they are not only responsible for any unlawful filming case that may come in, but any other crime that may have recorded evidence such as robberies, homicides and other such crimes that would take precedence.

In reference to the 17th Street Surf Shop. The suspect in that case was caught in the act. He was identified and there was known evidence to collect, thus it had priority over a case where there is no identified suspect, and it is unknown if anything even exists on the device.

We have been investigating this as thoroughly as we can, and we certainly have not dismissed the victim as she claims. As I said earlier, we do have documentation to substantiate that. We also have answered your questions as best we can regarding an ongoing investigation. I’m sorry if you don’t think that is enough, but we cannot jeopardize a potential criminal investigation for the sake of your story.”