DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO (KCNC/CNN) – A Colorado family has to rebuild their life after, they say, one tall tale and a case of mistaken identity sucked an innocent husband and father into a costly legal saga.
Last year Joshua McCay and his wife Lindsay were settled into a home in Windsor, about an hour north of Denver. They were thrilled to be raising their first child.
“It took us a long time so when we finally got pregnant for him, we named him Theodore, which is Greek for ‘God’s gift,’” said McCay.
Working at a landscaping company, he said life was by most accounts pretty normal
“Quiet, just blue collar, 9-5 – work, come home, eat, sleep, living the dream type of deal,” he said.
He could never have imagined what would happen next.
On Aug. 31, Douglas County deputies were involved in a high speed chase. The vehicle got away, but the license plate number led investigators to three people. The trio admitted they were in the car, but insisted Josh, a homeless man they met at a supermarket, was driving.
“I was reading through the statement,” McCay said. “The one guy said, ‘Uh, we think the driver’s name was Josh, or he might have been Erick, actually. And his last name was like, McCune, or McCoy, or McCay or something like that.’”
A woman involved in the chase, who contacted KCNC, explained their thinking.
“Someone said, ‘Oh since the cops don’t know who was driving let’s just come up with a fake name and we’ll tell them it was him, and they’ll never be able to catch the guy because he isn’t real,’” she said.
Only, when deputies put that name into the DMV database, there was a Joshua McCay in Windsor that came up. Along with a driver’s license photo.
The woman said police came back with the picture of McCay. Despite pulling the name out of thin air, all three – and a deputy – agreed he was the driver.
“It didn’t look like a real picture,” she said. “It looked like something that they had thrown together, like a Photoshop picture with what we had said.”
A felony warrant was issued for McCay, that he only learned about through the DMV.
Unsure what to do, he turned himself in and spent the next 20 hours in jail.
“That was the first night I had ever spent away from my son, when I was in jail,” he said.
Despite having his wife as an alibi, GPS on his phone and truck, and a fit bit log showing his sleep patterns that night, he was forced into a months-long legal battle.
The day of the trial, all of it was dismissed.
“I very truly regret lying and saying what I said,” the woman from the chase said. “I didn’t know he was real and I didn’t know he would be affected so much by a stupid decision me and my friends made.”
McCay said hearing that brings some closure, but doesn’t change the harm done to his family.
“We want our life back,” he said. “I mean, obviously, financially, we’re in a mountain of debt over it. But on top of that, we want Douglas County courts and their sheriffs department to do better.”
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