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Deputies had purse in custody but cash escaped

Right there, soaking wet and lying under some bushes, was the subject of Carla Woycio's nightmare: a missing purse.

Inside the Persian straw handbag were her checkbook, credit cards, airline ticket and, incredibly enough, $301 in cash.

United Parcel Service driver Scott Bricker, who found the purse near 15th Avenue and First Street in Indian Rocks Beach, gave it to authorities, ending the nightmare.

Sort of.

When Ms. Woycio's parents went to the Sheriff's Office to retrieve the purse, everything was intact _ except the $301.

At some point between Bricker's discovery and the parents' visit to the station _ while in the hands of the Sheriff's Office _ the cash disappeared.

"Somewhere along the line, the money was separated from the purse. This is very unusual, and we're trying to trace it," said sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita.

Detectives, he said, are investigating.

"It's not the money," said Ms. Woycio's mother, Gwen Rohrs of Largo. "It's thinking about it being turned in and then lost."

The incident began Sept. 21 when Ms. Woycio, who lives in Baltimore, was visiting her parents, Gwen and Carl Rohrs. Ms. Woycio lost the purse when she went to dinner at the Red Lion Restaurant, at 1407 Gulf Blvd. in Indian Rocks Beach.

"Then a deputy called my daughter and told her a UPS driver had found it and turned it in," Mrs. Rohrs said. "It was all wet in some bushes, but everything was in it."

Tita said the deputy submitted an inventory of the purse's contents, including the $301, and put it in a locker.

The money was put in a clear, heat-sealed plastic envelope. The purse and its contents were then taken by van to the Sheriff Office property section, logged in and stored.

But when Rohrs went to pick up his daughter's belongings three weeks ago, the money was missing.

Tita said the money had been properly logged in as part of the purse's contents.

If the $301 isn't found, Ms. Woycio can receive reimbursement through the county, Tita said.