Plea deal infuriates owner of the Wild Cherry van: “He got away with it”

Chris Carter couldn’t have expected a better legal conclusion to the outrageous and contentious ride of the “Wild Cherry” van. Laura Godin, on the other hand, is furious.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/05/17/plea-deal-infuriates-owner-of-the-wild-cherry-van

As I see it Laura Godin had in all likelyhood abandoned the van. My basis for this conclusion is my belief that the van registration in California had lapsed. Who would register a vehicle left for years in the desert to rot? In Calif. one can put a vehicle on a Non-op status which needs occasional renewal. My bet is none of this was taken care of by Laura Godwin. Her statement that her health suffered etc. etc. is total Hollywood show. If she and her family liked, loved or felt anything for this vehicle they would never have left it to the elements as they did. It’s an odd situation I agree but I think the conclusion what right and just,

1 Like

I can see both sides. I’m glad it’s over and done and it worked out the way it did. With my limited knowledge, following the story, I think it is a fair judgement. It seemed completely abandoned and only drew the owner’s attention AFTER it had been restored which leads me to believe they were greedy. On the other hand no one should have the right to just go and take a vehicle - he didn’t look very hard to find the owner and just wanted to take it to be restored, noble as it was, he had no right to it. So he was being greedy as well. I just hated to see such a nice restored vehicle completely disassembled. Neither party was on the up and up so to speak.

She’s infuriated? She got $5000.00 dollars for something she would have never done anything with and was worth a few hundred dollars in scrap value…And she had to agree to this deal too… Her story has changed so many times. Remember at the beginning she was going to show up on Van Nuys Blvd cruise night with the cops and they were going to give her her van back? And what thief tracks down all the previous owners of a car to get the history? When he got the van he came to buy it… … Teri Maddox is a slanted reporter as well… Her stories have been tainted from the beginning…And a lot of misinformation has been reported by this publication as well.

1 Like

Wild Cherry looks to be sitting in some type of high desert compost heap. Must have taken some work to move those old trees.

While at least they got compensated for the theft this case creates a bad pretense to future theft like this. He should have been ordered to pay the fine and return the van. It pretty much says that anyone can tresspass on someones property, steal a vehicle, spend a bit of time in jail and pay what someone else deems is a fair price for it and at the end get to keep it. They also didn’t seen to take into account they way he illegally obtained the title and according to some articles switched vin’s to be able to title it.

After he knew he was going to get in some sort of trouble he destroyed the van and hid it, he knew he was guilty of something and thought he wouldn’t get to keep it.


It was on her property! It’s hers. Can I go to someone’s property, and see an old ‘relic’ and just take it? Do your research, find out who owns the land, and go from there. She got ripped-off! On top of all that, he gets to KEEP the van? What a sick joke!


So I guess this means that IF YOU HAVE A CLASSIC DO SOMETHING WITH IT !!

How can someone just take property that isn’t theirs to take by trespassing? If the vehicle was abandoned, it was abandoned on the private property of the person who abandoned it in the first place. Trespassing, theft, and the thief gets to keep the vehicle? I’m in complete awe of this situation. I have to ask, are we still living in the US? This sounds like the legal system from a developing country.


I can only side with the Godins. It’s there property to do with as they please. Even if it means letting it sit on their property to wither away. This is not uncommon in the desert. If it’s on your property it’s not abandoned, it’s doing what you chose it to do.It could be considered art. To sit in the desert, even with a fallen tree on it is a bit of historic Americana.
Why was nothing made of the neighbors act of allowing the van to be taken. Ultimately Carter may have had no criminal intent but still the van did belong to the Godins. I would ask for the van to be restored to its desert condition, tree and all and put back.


Don’t just surround it with dead trees, stumps and branches. Apparently, they don’t offer sufficient protection.


I’m’ shocked that most people responding are OK with somebody stealing somebody else’s property just because they aren’t currently using the property. I’m assuming that Ms. Godin owned or controlled the property that the van was on. Discussion over. Sounds like most of you folks think somebody who owns a junkyard think it would be OK to just hop the fence in the middle of the night and steal whatever parts you want. No wonder why most junkyards have junkyard dogs to keep YOU away!


I think it’s BS that the thief gets off with no additional jail time and gets to keep the van. That being said, if it was returned to the Godins it would likely sit somewhere else or be sold. The thief claims he will restore it again (probably with the parts he stripped off of it). In the end, I’m happy for the van.

Their vehicle. Their property. NOBODY has a right to waltz in and take it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $2,000,000 Ferrari rotting into the ground, it’s THEIRS to do with, or do nothing with, as they choose. This guy is a thief, pure and simple. Crazyfornia wouldn’t benefit from pursuing the case, so they essentially took the path of least resistance. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the van was stripped by this POS, or someone in his circle, as a means of recovering investment dollars in the event that the law actually did the right thing. Further evidence that he expected his stolen property to be returned to the rightful owner.


So here is the takeaway in this: If you have a vehicle you love, you don’t park it in a rural, unsecured largely abandoned location, in plain sight. I don’t believe that this owner really cared anything about this van and only wanted to drum up media attention regarding its theft in hopes that the press would raise interest in the van’s brief movie career, thus increasing its value and “sale-ability” after the case was over and the van was recovered. If the owner does get the van back, my money goes that this van will go to “highest profile” auction the owner can find, and they will probably be disappointed with the final sale price, because this is a non iconic vehicle that played a bit part in a forgettable movie! While I don’t condone anyone stealing anything from anybody (and I think that happening upon a vehicle, assuming it is abandoned, and just taking it is not only a cavalier action but theft), if this owner has already recovered $5,000.00 here and if they can regain possession of the van, how can justice not be served? Let’s face it, if not for the movie part, the owner would probably be happy that the van disappeared so they wouldn’t have to deal with disposing of it.

I don’t think that anyone should arbitrarily take anything from another’s property whether it’s abandoned or not but let’s face it, the van was ugly when it was new and the movie wasn’t that great. Who really cares about this crap?

Total BS. He stripped it and hid the parts. That’s tampering with evidence in most law books. This really sets a bad precedent.

I’m sure we’ll see the “restored” van again soon on the pages of Hagerty.


It looks like the court called BS on the Godins. That was my first thought when I read the first story, and it seems that evidence supports it.
I’m betting that there’s a lot of information the Court had that we don’t to make a decision like this, but it seems more than equitable and fair. She gets five grand for property she abandoned, that never would have seen light of day again, but that’s not enough?
This was a King Solomon decision, the one who obviously cared got the baby.

IMHO the van should be impounded and then resold outright. That way who ever wants it the most can bid on it.

A few comments… The photo of the van sitting left to rot with a tree partially crushing the roof says to me, it is abandoned. In the photo, I dont see any signs at all that it is near any signs of life on that 20 acre parcel. So what do you do? Call WHO? Contact WHO? In California, if you contact ANY law enforcement agency and ask who owns the vehicle, they will tell you they can NOT GIVE OUT THAT INFORMATION. If you contact the Motor Vehicle Department, they will tell you the same thing. IF there is a record on file, you can conduct a lien sale IF you have a legal right to do so, and IF there is a record on file you will get a record of anyone on file. BUT if the last registered owner had not placed it on a “Planned Non-Op Status” it would have fallen off the DMV records. There is a second route with the DMV, you can send in a letter to request a search of the DMV archives, where a person goes into the old archives and pulls up old records and mails a report. These also don’t go back very far and take time and are not a free service. Lastly, you could figure out who owns the property. But again you are in California, where there is a very strict right to privacy act but a conflicting public right to access records. So, if you can figure out how to get through the wall of recorded public property records to get a name. then find that person. GOOD LUCK—

1 Like