Car theft turned victim's life upside down

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - "They don't know what they could be taking from someone when you steal a car, because that could be all they had, and in my case that was all I had," Jessica Blaylock said.

Blaylock was driving to work last month when she says the clutch was not working right on her 1995 Volkswagen Cabrio, so she pulled over on the interstate and got a ride to work. She went back to pick up her car less than 24 hours later, and it was gone.

"I immediately assumed it was picked up by the police department, so I started calling," Blaylock said.

No one knew what had happened and several days later, police had her fill out a stolen vehicle report. Since then, her life has been turned upside down.

"I lost the chance to promote at my job because of the lack of having a vehicle. I have to be able to go back and forth to the bank, and if someone calls out I have to be there, and it's completely affected my whole life," Blaylock said.

On top of that, Blaylock says she was in the process of moving and had scrapbooks, family heirlooms, her laptop and most of her clothes in the car.

Jackson County Sheriff's Deputies said Blaylock's car is one of at least 15 stolen vehicles that have been linked to Austin Colby Allen. He is being charged with 15 felony counts of motor vehicle theft. Austin Allen's brother, Kenneth Allen, is being charged with two counts and Austin Allen's girlfriend, Brittany Griffith, is being charged with three.

Investigators said the trio is accused of stealing cars that were left on the side of Interstate 10 as well as from the park and rides in St. Martin and Gautier.

"If the vehicle was disabled, they would pull it behind a privately owned vehicle," Sgt. Jeff Smith said. "They were also able to take some vehicles the keys were left in at the park and ride area and take them to the location and dispose of them."

Lead investigator on the case Sgt. Greg Evans said it did not take the suspects long to take off with the vehicles.

"We had a disabled motorist at exit 50. He actually walked down the interstate to get gas and came back, and his vehicle was gone," Sgt. Evans said. "It was about 45 minutes to an hour or less."

Evans said the suspects would take the vehicles to a scrap metal dealer the same day they stole them. Investigators said Austin Allen sold at least 30 vehicles to a scrap metal dealer since January.

If the vehicle is ten years or older, deputies said the seller does not have to have a registration or title for the car. They just have to sign an affidavit saying the car is theirs. Due to the amount of vehicles the suspect sold to the dealer, there is an ongoing investigation and charges are possible. Investigators said the dealer is not in Jackson County.

Blaylock said the law needs to be tougher.

"You can't go to the title loan place and borrow money without a title. You can't go get a tag for a car without registration or a title, you can't do any of these things," Blaylock said. "You can take it to the scrap yard, a running vehicle, and have it crushed."

Unfortunately for Blaylock and most of the other victims, they will never get their vehicles back.

"I just hope justice is served," Blaylock said.

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