Aspen police string together case of missing guitar
Ryan Summerlin October 3, 2012
ASPEN – Call it a theft case of the blues.
On Friday, Aspen police arrested a Snowmass Village man on suspicion of swiping an acoustic guitar bearing the signatures of blues legends B.B. King and Buddy Guy from a downtown nightclub.
Police were able to identify the suspect using video footage provided by Belly Up Aspen – from where Travis Cameron Barnes allegedly is spotted taking the instrument – and matching his image with his Facebook-page photos. Barnes, 23, actually returned the guitar to Belly Up, one day after police called him to question him about the alleged theft, authorities said.
His arrest comes after a Belly Up employee called Aspen police on Sept. 10 to report that the instrument, made by Great Divide Guitars, was missing. The employee said the guitar was bought for $100 but that the King and Guy autographs elevated its value to $5,000, according to an affidavit written by Aspen Police Officer Jeff Fain.
Video clips from the nightclub showed that the guitar, which had been stored in a private office at Belly Up, was taken by a tall, skinny male at 1:11 a.m. on Sept. 10. The video showed the “male (walk) out with the light colored guitar and (leave) the room. One can see a signature on the face of the guitar when he leaves,” Fain’s affidavit said.
Fain, who reviewed four video clips from the night in question, returned to Belly Up on Sept. 21 to meet with two managers. Box-office manager Jillian Scott was able to determine the exact times that Barnes and another man, who had been with him at the time of the alleged crime, bought tickets to a Sept. 9 show at Belly Up. She also ran the names on their credit cards on Facebook, where she found photos of them. Fain, in his affidavit, noted that their Facebook images “depicted the two males that I had seen on the video.”
Barnes then became a suspect, and Fain called him later that day to set up an interview.
“Barnes stated that he wasn’t even in town at the time that the incident occurred,” Fain wrote. “Barnes did not call me back, despite attempts by myself to reach him.”
On Sept. 26, a Belly Up employee called Fain to report that the guitar had been returned to the nightclub’s box office on Sept. 22. Again, Barnes was captured on video, this time walking through the nightclub’s front door with the same man from the Sept. 10 incident.
“Barnes is carrying a guitar case, and unzips it to reveal a guitar that I recognized as being similar in shape and color to the one stolen. …
Barnes hands the guitar to the person in the Box Office and leaves,” Fain wrote.
That information was enough to convince Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols to sign a warrant on Friday for Barnes’ arrest.
Fain could not be reached for comment about the status of the man who was in Barnes’ company during both the alleged theft and return of the guitar. For the time being, he has not been arrested over the incident.
Both King and Guy have performed at Belly Up. Most recently, Guy played there Sept. 2, one week before the guitar with his autograph went missing. On the night of the alleged heist, Matisyahu and Dirty Heads performed at the club.
Barnes is out of jail on $2,500 bond. He faces pending felony charges of second-degree burglary and theft, court records show. His first court appearance is set for Oct. 15.