Posted 11:07 PM 2/5/2013 : Guilty verdict in Waldo Canyon Fire burglary trial
The verdict is in for two suspects charged with burglarizing a home during the Waldo Canyon wildfire evacuation: guilty on all counts.
Shane Garrett and Belinda Wells-Yates were facing a multitude of charges including burglary and theft. During the height of the Waldo Canyon wildfire evacuation and its aftermath, Springs police say forty-two homes were burglarized. Yates and Garrett were charged with breaking into one of those homes in the Rockrimmon area. Police say when they were arrested they found stolen items and caught them offering to sell items taken from the home.
Other suspects have also been charged with burglarizing homes; those cases are still awaiting trial.
As of Wednesday night Garrett and Yates are behind bars at the Criminal Justice Center. While some criminals are released while they await sentencing, these two are locked up. Dan May, District Attorney, said the whole community was so shocked to hear of people further victimizing those already displaced by the fire, multiple charges carrying heavy sentences was only appropriate for justice to be served.
Phone records confirm Garrett and Yates entered the evacuation zone while the fire was still blazing and made calls to an undercover cop whom they believed was a 'fence', a person who buys stolen goods. They sneaked into the home by crawling through the doggie door; they said they picked that home because they knew there would be no motion sensors if a pet lived there. They also talked about how much stuff was available to steal. All of this transpired less than an hour after the homeowners evacuated.
The thieves took several personal items including a checkbook, which brought an additional charge of identity theft.
"I think the evidence was pretty clear when they're selling to an undercover officer within twenty-four hours of burglarizing the homes, what they'd done," Dan May told News 5 after the verdict came out.
A date hasn't yet been scheduled for sentencing but one thing is clear: Garrett and Yates will be in prison for a very long time. Each faces a second degree burglary charge plus conspiracy to commit burglary, along with theft and identity theft charges. When Yates and Garrett were arrested they also had meth on them; both were charged with possession and Yates was also charged with intent to distribute since she was caught with a scale and baggies.
The jury took less than two hours to weigh the evidence. Because both Yates and Garrett have criminal records the sentences for those charges could double if they're determined to be habitual offenders: the burglary charge alone could increase from twenty-four to forty-eight years. Ultimately it is up to the judge to determine if those sentences will be served concurrently or consecutively.