A Dead Woman’s Ring Was Sold At An Auction And The Buyer Refuses To Give It Back To Her Family

Nearly two years after the death of Shemethia Coteat Stanton, a 41-year-old mother killed in an ambush in Alabama, her family is trying to retrieve a wedding ring that belongs to their loved one. The ring, according to AL, was regarded as unclaimed property in a county auction and sold to a Missouri man after Stanton’s death last February. 

Now, the Missouri man refuses to give the ring back to the family.

“She was murdered by the streets and robbed by the state,” said Phillip Stanton, her ex-husband who maintained a close relationship with Shemethia even after their divorce. 

The woman died outside her Hoover apartment on Feb. 14, 2020, when she was shot four times while getting items from the backseat of her car. Police then held onto to her personal belongings for evidence. When authorities later returned the items, the family realized that her wedding ring was missing.

“That’s when we started looking for it,” Phillip said. “I was thinking this would be a break in the case. I’m calling the detectives, asking can we check pawn shops?” 

Shemethia, according to Phillip, never stopped wearing the ring throughout their relationship.

“We were together since high school – 30 something years – and married for 18. We had three kids together,” he said.

Phillip later found out that the ring, along with some other items, had been in the possession of the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. Although they returned some items such as a nose ring and a bracelet, authorities didn’t give back the woman’s wedding ring or Apple watch. Phillip eventually learned that the ring was sold on Dec. 28, 2020, at a county auction. 

Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates said Shemethia’s items were removed, inventoried and secured in the property room. 

“We attempted to contact the only next of kin we knew of, (the victim’s son), after autopsy to notify him of the personal property and weren’t able to get him,’’ the chief added.

Stanton was not considered to be the next-of-kin because the couple were divorced. As a result, authorities said they reached out to Phillip Stanton Jr., Shemethia’s son. Stanton Jr., however, said he doesn’t remember getting a call about his mother’s property.

According to Alabama law, unclaimed items are turned over to the county treasurer after 30 days. The objects are then sold at an auction with the proceeds going to the county’s general fund. In the case of the Stanton family, Yates said investigators held on to the belongings for 10 months before putting them up for an auction. 

The state law also allows families to be reimbursed for the items they lost. Phillip accepted the reimbursement in this case and planned to use the money to buy back the ring, hoping to pass it down to one of the couple’s children.

After getting a hold of 85-year-old Harold Blaker, who bought the ring, Phillip said the man initially agreed to sell the item, but then changed his mind when they talked again. 

“He told me he wasn’t going to do it,’’ Phillip said. “I asked him, ‘Sir, have you ever been married?’ and he said, ‘Yes, three times.’’’

Speaking with AL, Blaker said the two never agreed on a price.

“He was preying on my sympathy I guess and said, ‘Well that was my wife’s wedding ring.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to get rid of anything,'” Blaker said. “I just don’t feel comfortable putting a $2,000 ring in the mailbox and hoping somebody’s going to send me some money. That’s just the way it is.”

The family remains heartbroken, but still hasn’t given up.

“I don’t understand why they want to keep the ring,’’ Phillip said. “I’ll just keep praying.”

Shemethia’s loved ones are also waiting for answers in the murder case. Police said no arrests have been made so far. Shemethia was shot four times while getting something from her car outside of her home. Authorities suspect she was the intended target. 

As Blavity previously reported, at least four Black women and girls were killed each day in 2020. 

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