The Kansas City International Airport parking lot where Randy Potter’s body sat unnoticed for eight months was supposed to be checked every night, according to the airport’s contract with SP+, the private firm hired to operate the parking lots.
Every night, the contract says, SP+ parking staff are to inventory the license plates of all the vehicles in the public parking lots. That inventory should allow parking staff to know where each vehicle is and how long it has been there.
But Potter’s family members say that when they went to the airport parking lots in January searching for the missing 53-year-old T-Mobile manager, they gave Potter’s license plate number to parking staff and airport police, who did not locate him.
Instead, Potter’s body apparently remained inside his truck, parked in Economy Lot B, from Jan. 17 until Sept. 12, when someone called airport police about a bad smell. Kansas City police said it appeared Potter died by suicide.
City officials and SP+ representatives have said they are investigating how Potter’s truck remained in the lot for eight months. Two members of the Kansas City Council’s Airport Committee expressed concerned Tuesday over the lapse, while other KCI travelers described seeing vehicles sitting in KCI parking lots for months, some even with flat tires.
“It’s obvious that they dropped the ball here,” said Councilman Dan Fowler.
Within a week of reporting him missing in January, Potter’s wife, niece and brother took some fliers to KCI, guessing that Potter might have passed through there if he had left town. They gave the information to parking staff and airport police, who assured them that the lots were checked regularly and that if Potter’s truck was there, it would be found.
The airport’s contract with SP+ requires a license plate inventory to be done in all public lots each night — specifically after midnight, when traffic is at a minimum.
The contract includes numerous provisions detailing how the lots are to be operated.
An operations manual attached to the contract describes how the license plate inventory can be used to help a parking lot customer who has lost his or her ticket. A parking attendant can enter the customer’s license plate number into the firm’s computer system, the manual says, to see the exact date the vehicle entered the lot, and if the vehicle was parked in the same space during each inventory.
It is unclear if Potter’s vehicle was ever recorded in an inventory, or if anyone ever checked.
In response to questions about the Potter incident, a representative of SP+ provided a written statement:
“SP+ manages all 25,000 (approximately) parking spaces at Kansas City International Airport, including the nearly 5,917 spaces in Economy Lot B, which does not have a maximum time limit for parking. This incident is under investigation and we are working with airport authorities.”
SP+ also counts as clients 53 other airports around the country.
Fowler and Councilwoman Teresa Loar, who both sit on the city’s Airport Committee, said they were concerned about how the KCI parking lots are being run by SP+.
“I think part of the problem is that there’s no prohibition — you can park out there as long as you want,” Fowler said.
Loar said she plans to talk with airport security officials and SP+ “to find out what fell through the cracks here.”
“I don’t want people thinking they can do this on a regular basis,” Loar said. “And not just what happened in this case, but hiding anything out there.”
Other travelers at KCI said they have noticed vehicles remaining in parking lots for long periods of time or have been told by parking lot employees that vehicles were allowed to sit for months.
James Densmore, 35, said he started noticing an Audi with a flat tire last winter. Flying in and out of KCI for business every week, or every other week, Densmore became accustomed to seeing the Audi parked in the same spot in the Circle E3 parking lot near Terminal B. He said a parking attendant told him vehicles were allowed to sit for 60 days.
“It’s been there, I’m 100 percent, since February,” Densmore said.
Densmore said he first reported the car in August and called airport police on Sept. 14. The car was still there Monday when he flew out again.
A few years earlier, a dust-covered minivan with four flat tires caught the attention of Kevin Peterson of Blue Springs. He spotted the van in the Terminal B parking lot, he said. It had been there for months. He reported it to KCI management.
“I was told they would check on it, but it was not unheard of for a car to be parked for months in KCI’s parking lots,” Peterson wrote in an email.
“That response surprised me,” Peterson wrote. “If KCI doesn’t notice a vehicle with four flat tires, you would have to think airport parking would be a great place for a criminal to abandon a stolen vehicle or hide a body.”
Don Loux of Lawrence said he was riding a KCI parking lot shuttle bus two years ago, and the driver pointed out vehicles that had not moved in months.
Potter’s relatives have said they are angry that more wasn’t done to find Potter sooner.
“How many thousands of people drove by the vehicle? How many people walked by?” said Potter’s niece Melissa Alderman. “It’s disgusting. And it’s infuriating. It’s a total disregard for human life.”