Man accused of stealing Snowmass Village shuttle bus

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Official charges were filed by the District Attorney’s Office on Friday against a Snowmass Village man accused of stealing a shuttle bus from the town’s Daly Lane bus depot and driving it while intoxicated.

Raymond Joseph Piche, 58, faces one count of second-degree aggravated motor-vehicle theft, a felony, along with misdemeanor charges of DUI and driving under restraint. He was advised of the charges Monday by Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols.

Though the incident occurred Nov. 26, according to Snowmass Village police, Piche wasn’t taken into custody until Dec. 1, when he turned himself in after being notified of an arrest warrant, court records show. He was later released from the Pitkin County Jail after posting $3,000 bond.

An arrest affidavit written by Snowmass officer Brian Vanderpool states that a bus driver reported the theft of the shuttle just before midnight Nov. 26. The driver and a co-worker were in the drivers’ break lounge when they heard beeping, indicating that a shuttle had been put into reverse gear, the report said.

They ran outside and noticed one of two buses missing from the depot, according to the affidavit. Vanderpool later found the 16-passenger shuttle in the lower parking lot of Snowmass Center on Kearns Road. No one was inside it, Vanderpool wrote.

Vanderpool then reviewed security videos of the depot and later showed photographs of the suspect to employees of various Snowmass Village lodges and hotels. Workers at the Timbers Club identified Piche as the man in the photos, the affidavit said.

Officers then contacted Piche at his home Nov. 28 and he agreed to speak with them at the police station. Piche told them he had gotten “pretty drunk the other night,” Vanderpool wrote.

During the interview, Vanderpool told Piche that someone took one of the Snowmass buses for a joyride. Another officer asked Piche if he recalled driving the shuttle, and the suspect replied, “Yeah, I probably recall.” He later said, “I think I probably just got on the bus and took it,” according to the affidavit.

As the interview came to a close, Piche told police he was sorry and offered to perform community service.

In court Monday, prosecutor Andrea Bryan pointed out that Piche did not have valid driving privileges because of previous alcohol-related driving offenses.

The felony theft charge carries a recommended sentence of one year to 18 months, Nichols said. She told Piche that as a condition of bond, he must refrain from drinking and sign up for an alcohol-monitoring program through Mindsprings Health.

His next scheduled court appearance is Jan. 5.

In other District Court action:

• Roman Ruparsek, 41, was sentenced to two years of supervised probation following a guilty plea to misdemeanor assault. The native of Slovenia also received a two-year deferred judgment on a guilty plea to felony menacing, meaning that if he doesn’t get into trouble over the next two years, the conviction won’t count toward his criminal record.

Ruparsek’s arrest by Aspen police in early August stemmed from a July 27 incident at an Aspen bar in which he argued with two brothers over snowboarding skills. He punched both of them, seriously injuring the younger brother, according to a police affidavit.

Nichols said that she typically imposes jail time for an assault involving injuries, but that she decided against it because of Ruparsek’s solid work ethic and support from various community members. In court, Ruparsek admitted that he should have walked away from the argument as it escalated.