Second suspect in Basalt robbery arrested
BASALT – Police say they arrested a second suspect over the weekend in a burglary that turned into an armed robbery at a Basalt house on Wednesday.
James Arthur Ward Jr., 24, of Parachute, was arrested Friday evening near his home, authorities said. He was advised in Eagle County District Court on Monday of multiple charges he faces – 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 is being held in the Eagle County jail on $25,000 bond.
When reached later in the day at the Eagle County jail, Ward said he is being falsely accused. He said he has eight signed statements from co-workers and supervisors that he was working at United Site Services, which services septic systems and portable toilets, at the time of the alleged robbery in Basalt.
Those signed statements were presented to a judge and prosecutor Monday, but they haven’t been assessed yet. Judge Katharine Sullivan gave prosecutors until Friday to decide what charges, if any, to file against Ward.
Police arrested another man, Michael Charles Hawkins, 24, also of Parachute, on suspicion of the robbery Thursday. Ward said Hawkins is the father of two children with Ward’s younger sister. He said his sister occasionally allows Hawkins into the house where Ward and his sister live. Ward said some items allegedly stolen in the Basalt robbery were found in his house.
“I’m thinking he hid some of the stuff in my house,” Ward said.
Hawkins was arrested in Glenwood Springs and is being held on charges unrelated to the Basalt robbery in Garfield County jail. Authorities anticipate he will be transported to the Eagle County jail later this week and advised in court there on the charges against him in connection with the alleged robbery.
Both Hawkins and Ward were arrested after a judge signed warrants for their arrests. Basalt Police Officer Phil Martin filled out affidavits in both cases supplying the reasons police felt Hawkins and Ward should be arrested.
The robbery occurred shortly before noon Wednesday at a residence on Riverside Drive in Basalt, 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 Martin’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,” Martin wrote. 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.
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.
Basalt Sgt. Stu Curry said in an earlier interview that authorities believe the men thought the woman was gone and the house was unoccupied. They do not believe robbery was planned, just burglary, according to Curry.
The iPhone allegedly stolen had an Apple Find My iPhone app, which the victim’s son had activated. He shared information on how to log in so a Basalt officer also could track the movement of the phone. The phone was tracked to western Garfield County, and it stopped moving on South Second Street in Parachute, according to the arrest affidavit. Basalt police contacted the Parachute police chief, and he went to the address and reported that it was in the vicinity of Ward’s residence, according to authorities. Ward was familiar to Parachute police because he recently was arrested in connection with an alleged burglary in Rifle.
The Parachute police chief emailed a photo of Ward to Martin in Basalt. He used it in a six-picture photo lineup that he showed to the alleged victim.
“As I showed (the alleged victim) the photo lineup, she commented on photo number 4, Ward’s photo, and said it probably would be him if his mouth was not upturned the way it was,” Martin wrote in the arrest affidavit.
The alleged victim “then chose number 6, which she stated was because of the eyes and mouth,” Martin wrote. Photo No. 6 did not show Ward.
“I looked at photos number 4 and 6, which are both very similar except for the upturned mouth in number 4, Ward’s photo, and the flat/frowned mouth in photo 6,” Martin wrote.
Martin prepared a search warrant for Ward’s residence on Wednesday and got it approved by a judge. Authorities reportedly found a handgun in what was identified by police as Hawkins’ bedroom at Ward’s residence. The alleged victim’s iPhone was on a shelf near a window in Hawkins’ room, the affidavit added.
Police felt that gave them enough information to seek the arrest of Ward as well as Hawkins. Eagle County Judge Wayne Patton reviewed the arrest-warrant affidavit and approved the arrest of Ward.
Ward said from jail that he was formerly friends with Hawkins. He said Hawkins doesn’t stay at the house but visits Ward’s sister so he can see his two children.
He said he suspects a friend of Hawkins’ participated in the alleged robbery in Basalt. A source familiar with the case said authorities might be looking at another possible suspect in the case. The source didn’t want to be identified because of lack of authorization to speak on the case. Curry couldn’t be reached for comment Monday night.
Ward said he hopes to use the signed statements from colleagues to clear his name in the Basalt case.
“I hope to have all this dropped so I can go back to work,” he said.
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