‘Is this normal?’: Guest’s four wheels stolen from College Park hotel lot

All four tires and wheels were stolen, but crooks left lug nuts by the Honda Pilot. (Courtesy Linda Kessel)
A mother and her son, who drove from Rincon, Georgia, to College Park, Maryland, for a four-day conference, departed with a sour taste in their mouths and a rental car, after all four wheels of their 2021 Honda Pilot were stolen in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express on U.S. Route 1.

Lisa Kessel tells WTOP she and her son were excited for the trip to the area, after he had been selected to participate in the Junior National Young Leaders Conference, which was held from June 18 to June 23 at the Marriott in College Park.

“We had decided to stay at the Holiday Inn versus the Marriott, because it had a pool,” Kessel said.

The conference was going well, until Kessel and her son left the hotel for the last day of the event.

“When we walked out toward the vehicle, I noticed blue crates by my car,” Kessel recalled, who didn’t immediately notice what had happened. “My son started crying because he realized that we had no wheels and tires, and the Pepsi crates were actually lifting my car up.”

The two stood in shock, agape at the reality that their car had been stripped of its wheels: “We had a 2021 Honda Pilot. They left the lug nuts lying on the ground — all we saw were the brake rotors.”

Kessel was not aware of the recent rise in tire and rim thefts. Kessel told the employee at the front desk that her wheels and tires had been stolen.

All four wheels of the Kessel family’s 2021 Honda Pilot were stolen in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express on U.S. Route 1. (Courtesy Lisa Kessel)

“She said, ‘Would you like me to call the police?’” Kessel recalled. “I was like, ‘if you could, that would be great.’”

An underwhelming show of concern

With her car unusable, Kessel knew her son would miss the final day of the conference, as she anticipated having to wait at the hotel to provide information to law enforcement.

“There really was no investigation,” she said. “The officer apologized and said he would take the report over the phone, and then call me back with my police report number.”

Kessel asked the front desk employee to preserve security camera video of the parking lot. She says she has always made a point of parking near a camera when traveling with her family.

Kessel didn’t personally see the video, but the hotel employee described what it showed: “Two people, they saw, around 2 a.m. … they drove up in a white vehicle and went right to my vehicle.”

Kessel asked the employee for a copy of the video, so she could provide it to her insurance company, “to make sure we could get this comprehensive claim paid.”

Contacted by WTOP,  Prince George’s County County Police Captain Saul Serpas, assistant commander of Division One, where the hotel is located, says an investigator will be retrieving the video from the hotel.

“We’ll try to identify any suspect vehicles,” said Serpas. “And, we’ll be working with our partners in College Park, to see what their cameras show.”

Kessel also asked the front desk employee what the hotel typically did to assist customers in a situation like this.

“She said, ‘Well, there are signs posted that we’re not responsible for any loss or damage to personal items on our property.’”

Kessel noticed blue crates by her car as she and her son approached: “The Pepsi crates were actually lifting up my car.” (Courtesy Lisa Kessel)

Eventually, Kessel’s car was removed from the hotel parking lot, and is being repaired at a Honda dealership in Bethesda.

Kessel said she’s frustrated and disappointed by the response to her predicament.

“It’s like no wants to help you. Is this normal? Is this how every business operates in this area?” she asked, rhetorically.

She believes the hotel just wanted her to leave, “and wanted my car removed from their parking lot so they didn’t have to explain this to every client that was checking into the hotel that day.”

“It just feels like no one cares,” she said. “Everyone’s just, ‘Yeah, it’s happening, we’re sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it.’”

WTOP contacted the hotel chain’s corporate office, for reaction.

“This hotel is independently owned and operated, so we’ve passed along your inquiry to hotel ownership,” said Jacqueline Lee, coordinator of corporate communications for IHG Hotels and Resorts.

WTOP has sent three emails to the hotel manager that Kessel has communicated with, seeking comment.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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