Volkswagen is offering five years of its tracking service for free to most owners of newer models after they required police to pay to obtain the location of a carjacked vehicle, which had a two-year-old Libertyville boy inside.
Starting in June, Volkswagen 2020 to 2023 models equipped with Car-Net will be eligible for a free five-year plan with Car-Net Safe and Secure, which provides anti-theft alerts, automatic crash notifications, roadside assistance and tracking for stolen vehicles.
The decision comes in response to a carjacking with a two-year-old boy inside on February 23 in the 16000 block of West Buckley Road in incorporated Libertyville.
Taylor Shepherd, 34, who is approximately six months pregnant, had just returned to her residence, according to her neighbors and police.
She pulled into her driveway and brought one of her children inside, Covelli said.
Shepherd came back to her car to retrieve her other child, a two-year-old boy, when a white BMW pulled into her driveway behind her car.
A man exited the passenger side of the BMW and struggled to get into the woman’s 2021 Volkswagen Atlas as she tried to keep her two-year-old son safe.
The offender battered Shepherd and knocked her to the ground, Covelli said. He then stole her car with the child inside.
He and the driver of the BMW, described as a 2000s model with a black bumper and loud exhaust, fled from the scene.
One of the two drivers ran Shepherd over as they fled, causing serious injuries to her extremities, Covelli said.
The woman was still able to call 911 and sheriff’s deputies immediately responded.
Covelli told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that one of the detectives immediately called Volkswagen Car-Net because he knew the stolen vehicle had a GPS locator.
The detective called the emergency number and explained the circumstances.
The employee looked up the VIN and confirmed the vehicle could be tracked but declined to do it because the trial period for the software in the car had ended.
Covelli said the detective pleaded with the employee and informed them it was a life-and-death situation.
The employee said he was required to follow policy and could not give the location until payment was secured.
Detectives had to get a credit card to pay Volkswagen. The entire process added a 30-minute delay.
By then, police had already located the boy and the stolen Volkswagen in Waukegan.
Rachael Zaluzec, the senior vice president for customer experience and brand marketing at Volkswagen of America, called the incident “heartbreaking.”
“As a mom and an aunt, I can imagine how painful this incident must have been. Words can’t adequately express how truly sorry I am for what the family endured,” Zaluzec said.
“Volkswagen must and will do better for everyone that trusts our brand and for the law enforcement officials tasked with protecting us,” she added.
Mark Gillies, a spokesperson for Volkswagen, said the company takes the safety and security of its customers “very seriously.”
“Volkswagen has a procedure in place with a third-party provider for Car-Net Support Services involving emergency requests from law enforcement,” Gillies said.
“They have executed this process successfully in previous incidents. Unfortunately, in this instance, there was a serious breach of the process. We are addressing the situation with the parties involved,” Gillies added.
Covelli said the wanted BMW, which was stolen from a car dealership last month, was located Sunday in Waukegan.
The recovered Volkswagen and BMW have both been processed for fingerprints and DNA evidence, Covelli said.
Neighbors of the woman said last week that she underwent her first surgery and “has a very long road ahead.”
Shepherd remains hospitalized as of Tuesday, Covelli said.
Shepherd said in a statement that she is “truly beyond thankful for the outpouring of support.”
“Keep the prayers coming, they are working. Thank you all, there’s still so much good out there. God is calling his people together and I have truly experienced the miracles and the grace of God, family, friends, strangers, nurses doctors, and our wonderful police,” Shepherd said.
The North Libertyville Estates neighborhood created a GoFundMe account following the incident to help the Shepherd-Koutelidakis family.
1,400 donors raised nearly $80,000 as of Thursday evening.
Shepherd’s two-year-old son, Isaiah, suffered no physical injuries and was reunited with his family.
Shepherd will be unable to work due to her injuries. Her unborn baby will require ongoing monitoring to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery, neighbors said.
No one is in custody yet.
Anyone who has information about the suspects is asked to call the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division at 847-377-4000 or contact Lake County CrimeStoppers at www.lakecountycrimestoppers.org.