The team members stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant in Jackson, Tennessee, and when they returned to their vehicle, they found that several briefcases and backpacks had been stolen from inside.
The value of the items stolen is estimated to be around $5,000. Items stolen include laptops, headphones, textbooks and a trophy a student won at the tournament. Team coach Dr. Amorette Hinderaker’s debate bag, which included her laptop and all of her research which she has been working on for years, was stolen, said Shelby Whitson, a junior who has been on the debate team for three years.
“It’s the non-monetary value that we are mourning,” Whitson said. “Hours and hours of work lost, and the stress and inconvenience of it all, as well as the sentimental value of items that can’t be recovered.”
Police determined the suspect used a knife or screwdriver to open the door and forced entry, Whitson said.
“They stole the debate flows notes on the arguments during the debate, including the one from the debate that won me a national championship in IPDA,” said Timothy Betts, a junior and founding member of the forensics team. “They also stole a plastic duck that has been with me in every single tournament and speech – it’s the small stuff that’s hurting us.”
When they found their items had been stolen, the team members contacted the police, who fingerprinted the van while the students searched the area for any traces of their belongings, Whitson said.
“We checked to see if surrounding businesses had cameras, which they didn’t,” Whitson said. “Meanwhile, our parents were looking at Craigslist and calling pawn shops.”
The Forensics Debate Team competed for a week in the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament. The tournament included both speech and debate skills.
None of the student property stolen is covered by TCU because the team signs a travel waiver that removes TCU from liability of travel expenses. The team won several awards, including a first-place award in the International Public Debate Association event and several finalist awards.