Turns out, Heritage Auction Galleries in Oak Lawn was indeed approached about selling off those stolen Stevie Ray Vaughan items after all. This afternoon, Unfair Park spoke with Doug Norwine, the consignment director for the company's entertainment memorabilia department, and he confirms that in May he was approached by James Malone and Michael Winders about consigning some SRV items, including handwritten lyrics, clothes and other random items of significance. (But no guitars were offered in the lot, Norwine says.)
Turns out, Malone and Winders, who have been charged with the theft by Austin police, went to the wrong place -- because, as Norwine points out, the two signed a consignment agreement that explicitly stated the two owned the items outright. "It says they have a clear title on it," Norwine says of the company's standard agreement. It also says that before auctioning off the items, Heritage will conduct due diligence to make sure the company isn't selling off stolen property, which would be bad for its sterling rep as a seller of top-notch pop-culture goodies.
It didn't take long for Heritage to discover the truth about the damaged goods.
Norwine says that as soon as he received the materials from Malone and Winders, he called Craig Hopkins. Hopkins runs the Stevie Ray Vaughan museum in the South Side of Lamar and operates the fan club as well.
Hopkins initially told Norwine the good were legit -- if nothing else, he said, the were genuine SRV collectibles. But Hopkins, who's longtime pals with Jimmie Vaughan, contacted Stevie's brother about the items. And that, Norwine says, is when Jimmie notified Hopkins that his Central Texas U-Haul storage unit had twice been broken into and ransacked. (Jimmie, for whatever reason, had not notified police earlier about the break-ins that took place earlier this spring.)
Hopkins called Norwine and broke the news. He also gave the consignment director the number of an Austin Police Department detective. "And I said, 'What can we do to help?'" Norwine recounts. He says he was also stalling Malone and Winders, who were demanding Heritage pay them an advance for the materials or return them immediately.
'But I couldn't give them back," Norwine says, "because the title was in contest. Also, we'll do anything to protect the legacy of a Texas music legend like Stevie Ray Vaughan."
Eventually, a Dallas Police Department detective went over to Heritage's Oak Lawn offices to inventory and collect the items, which are still in the possession of the Dallas police. Norwine also got a call from Tina Vaughan, Jimmie's daughter, who, Norwine says, was nearly in tears over the theft and near-sale of her uncle's items. "She called to thank us," Norwine says. "And, as it turns out, the day she called me was also her grandmother's birthday and it was going to make her birthday, so we helped save the legacy."
In the end, it was a good thing the two alleged thieves got too greedy for their own good by taking the material to a legit auction house.
"I am certainly glad we got that stuff consigned and were able to turn it over so it could go to the person who actually owns it," Norwine says. "We did the right thing, because this stuff could have been sold in alleys and never seen again." --Robert Wilonsky
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