Fallout from car on roof worse than crash itself

FRESNO, Calif.

The car came to a relatively soft landing on a roof and wreckers from Action Towing lifted it off without causing any more damage, so despite a tarp on the roof, the residents can still live here. But the damage is much more serious for the car's owner.

As it sat 10 feet in the air on top of an apartment roof Wednesday with only the driver's side visible, this 1997 Saturn looked like it barely had a scratch. On the ground at a tow yard, the true damage is obvious: a broken axle, a destroyed front right tire, and a severely dented and scratched passenger side. The car is totaled. Even harder to see on Wednesday was the damage to the car's owner -- mother of three, Marshonda Degroat.

"I never in a million years would've imagined that he would bring the pain that he has brought to my family," she said.

Police say 26-year-old Benjamin Tucker stole the car from this parking space while Degroat slept. The couple shares two children, but Degroat says Tucker doesn't live with her and is absolutely not allowed to drive her car. But when police knocked on Degroat's door early that morning, she realized tucker was in her house. "He tried to prevent me from opening the door and I pulled it open anyway and the officer was standing there, and (Benjamin) took off running," she said.

Degroat was already upset with Tucker, but it took a few more minutes before she realized the extent of his betrayal. When she saw her car resting on a roof, she immediately thought about her children, and how they all relied on that car. "I'm working, working every day to pay these bills and take care of these kids," she said. "Am I still going to be able to do that? Am I still going to be able to provide for them? And I'm not going to lie, all I visualized was myself sleeping in a shelter."

Degroat only had liability insurance on the car. The insurance company will pay for the damage to the roof, but not the car, so she'll never get it back. Degroat says she can walk to her job, but her kids go to three different schools and only one can catch a bus. Her two sons both suffer from asthma and visit Children's Hospital Central California fairly often. One missed an appointment Friday because they don't have a car. Her ex-boyfriend's joy ride ruined more than just the car. "I've always provided for my kids and now I can't," she said. "That is a very vulnerable, very depressing feeling for me."

Tucker is still in jail and prosecutors filed auto theft and hit & run charges against him late Friday afternoon. He'll make his first court appearance next week.

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