BASALT - No charges will be filed against one of the men arrested on suspicion of robbing a Basalt homeowner Nov. 28, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said Tuesday.
James Arthur Ward Jr., 24, of Parachute, was released from the Eagle County jail around noon. Ward's co-workers appeared in court Dec. 3, when he was advised of the charges on which he was arrested and left sworn statements stating that Ward was at work at the time of the Basalt crime.
"We had gotten letters from a bunch of people that gave him an alibi," Hurlbert said. His office investigated the claims and found that Ward had reported for work and could be accounted for at the time of the Basalt robbery.
"It was airtight," Hurlbert said of the alibi.
Ward was arrested near his home in Parachute after Basalt police officers got a warrant for his arrest signed by a judge. Ward was arrested on charges of aggravated robbery of an at-risk adult, felony theft of more than $20,000 from an at-risk adult, first-degree burglary, menacing, false imprisonment, first-degree criminal trespass and criminal mischief. He was in custody in the Eagle County jail on $25,000 bond until Tuesday.
He told The Aspen Times on Dec. 3 that he was afraid he would lose his job if he didn't get out of jail soon and get back to work. He couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, so it's unknown if he lost his job after 11 days behind bars.
Basalt Police Sgt. Penny Paxton said the arrest was pursued after police obtained a warrant to search Ward's home and found items stolen from the Basalt house. Ward previously told the Times that the other man arrested on suspicion of the crime, Michael Charles Hawkins, came to his house and left some of the stolen items behind without Ward's knowledge. Ward said his sister had two children with Hawkins and she occasionally allowed Hawkins into the house she shared with Ward to see the kids.
Paxton said Basalt police felt they made a reasonable arrest of Ward based on the information they collected. He was able to account for his whereabouts at the time of the crime, and so he was released, she said.
Basalt police are working with other agencies to try to identify and arrest a different suspect in the case.
"We are working on other leads," Paxton said.
What ended up being a robbery at a home on Riverside Drive in Basalt started as a burglary, according to police. A woman in her 70s was blow-drying her hair after taking a shower, when she "heard a loud crash in her house," according to a Basalt police officer's arrest affidavit. As she exited her bedroom, she was confronted by two men. The smaller of the two pointed a handgun at her and told her to "shut up," according to the arrest affidavit. A taller man pulled up his sweatshirt to conceal his face and head, and gathered items from the victim's home, the arrest affidavit said. The man with the gun told her to sit down in the shower and not emerge for five minutes, the affidavit said. He allegedly said "they would come back and kill her" if she called police, according to the affidavit.
She emerged after five minutes, found her home phone damaged and called authorities a short time later from a neighbor's house.
Police said they had reason to believe the two men felt that the house would be vacant and they were caught off guard when the homeowner emerged.
The missing items included an iPhone 5, an iPad, a woman's sapphire-and-diamond ring valued at $24,000, a woman's Rolex watch valued at $20,000 and other jewelry, according to police.
Police worked with the victim's son to trace the phone using the Apple "Find My iPhone" app. That led them to Ward's house.