Local News

Waldo fire looters found guilty on all counts

Jury deliberates two hours in week-long trial

First Waldo Fire Burglary Trial

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A man and a woman were convicted Tuesday of breaking into a home evacuated because of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Belinda Wells-Yates, 38, and Shane Garrett, 36, were both found guilty of second-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary, and several counts of identity theft theft and possession of meth.

Prosecutors said Yates and Garrett broke into a home on Allegheny Drive, just south of Mountain Shadows, on the same day that the fire burned several hundred homes. Both crawled in through a pet door to avoid setting off the home's alarm, prosecutors said. 

Prosecutors said a juvenile participated in the crime, but they didn't discuss the juvenile's legal status.

According to prosecutors, the defendants took numerous items, including electronics, musical equipment, jewelry, a checkbook and keys to a warehouse.  The defendants were unable to take a gun collection because it was bolted to the wall, but they planned to return later.

Yates later said she broke in and took the items because it was her way of helping the victims evacuate.  Prosecutors said she'd been connected to numerous other burglaries of homes and vehicles, and was next planning to target evacuated homes in Woodland Park.

Prosecutors said the day after Mountain Shadows burned, the defendants took the stolen property to the Sundance Mountain Lodge in Monument and were arrested when they tried to sell the items to an undercover officer from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

"He had already formed a relationship with one of the defendants," said District Attorney Dan May.  "They called him saying they were burglarizing homes, and asked if he'd like to buy the stolen goods.  He got almost all of the goods back, and arrested them."

Authorities found burglary tools in Garrett's backpack, and found crystal meth on both defendants.

On Friday, a judge will set a date for another hearing to determine whether Garrett and Wells-Yates are habitual offenders.  If they are deemed to be habitual offenders, they will face a minimum prison sentence of 48 years, said May.

Former fire evacuees expressed little sympathy for the defendants.

"I just thought that was the most despicable crime that anyone could commit," said Pat Ludwig, whose husband died during the evacuation.  "I hope there's a special place in you-know-where, for them."

Floyd Studebaker and his family evacuated for three weeks.

"We were all worried and concerned about all the things we left behind," he said.

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