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Pair face burglary charges after stop in Liberty Lake

Thu., Dec. 16, 2010

A container of marijuana and a bank deposit bag were among items found inside a car linked to recent garage burglaries and vehicle prowls in Liberty Lake.
A container of marijuana and a bank deposit bag were among items found inside a car linked to recent garage burglaries and vehicle prowls in Liberty Lake.

The duo believed to be treating garages and cars in Liberty Lake as a one-stop shopping mart have been arrested by Liberty Lake Police officers.

Officer Darin Morgan was on patrol in the 24200 block of East Cataldo Court just before 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 11 when he spotted a newer model Ford Focus parked in the middle of the street. Morgan contacted a woman sitting in the passenger seat, who said she was waiting for her boyfriend “Robert,” said Sgt. Clint Gibson.

Morgan could see an open garage nearby and called for Officer Mike Thomas to assist, said Police Chief Brian Asmus. Thomas noticed tracks leading from the car to the garage, where a car sat with its doors slightly open. Morgan attempted to arrest the woman, who reportedly tried to lock herself in the car and began screaming. A man began walking toward the car and had reached the front of the car when Thomas arrived to arrest him as well, Gibson said. “It was lucky for Darrin that he had another officer there,” he said.

The suspects were identified as Robert L. Hahn, 29, and Amber L. Tarpley, 29, both of Spokane Valley. Both have lengthy criminal records and Hahn was arrested for similar crimes in Liberty Lake before, Asmus said. “He was responsible for seven of our vehicle prowls/garage burglaries in 2005 and 2006,” Asmus said. Court records show that Hahn was sentenced to 40 months in prison in 2006.

Detective Ray Bourgeois searched the Focus after getting a search warrant and found items such as screwdrivers and coat hangers likely used to help break into cars. Police also found “lots of iPods and earpieces,” two stolen bank bags (one of which contained foreign currency), about 60 gift cards believed to be stolen and a felony amount of marijuana under the driver’s seat.

“We can tie about five of our 20-plus vehicle prowls directly to the stuff found in the car,” Asmus said. The investigation is continuing and more evidence may be found conclusively linking Hahn to additional crimes. Bourgeois is also checking pawn records for stolen items, but said when Hahn committed similar crimes in 2005 he waited a year to pawn some things.

It’s quite likely that there’s a stash of stolen items out there that police will be trying to locate, Asmus said. “He could have a storage unit,” he said. “Who knows?”

The arrests bring to an end weeks of crimes that saw numerous unlocked garages and cars entered and plundered. Police efforts to catch the criminals were frustrated by residents who continued to leave their items unprotected. Bourgeois reported driving down Molter Road one night and being amazed at what he saw. “In one hour I counted 15 open garages with no one around,” he said.

Asmus said he still hears people tell him that they think Liberty Lake is so safe that they don’t have to lock up.

Two days before Hahn and Tarpley were arrested a vehicle prowl was reported in the 700 block of North Garry Drive. A debit card was taken from a car inside the garage and it was used at the Spokane Teachers Credit Union ATM. Police have video footage from the machine and believe Hahn committed that crime even though the person using the ATM was wearing a mask. Officers who know Hahn said the facial features visible look like him, Bourgeois said.

The two are facing charges of felony residential burglary, theft and vehicle prowling. Additional charges for the marijuana found in the car will be added, Asmus said.

Police have also had a break in the case involving multiple thefts of flat screen televisions from RV’s. Police in Kootenai County raided a suspected drug house there and found about two dozen of the televisions, which are different from normal household flat screens. The people in the home identified two Post Falls residents as their source for the televisions, Bourgeois said. The man and woman are known to police and have been arrested in Liberty Lake before. Both were arrested, but the woman has skipped bail and is now wanted.

“They came over here to do some thieving, once they found out how easy it was,” Bourgeois said. “There was 10 (thefts) in one night once.”

Also during the week, an officer on patrol spotted a man and woman arguing in front of a house in the 1200 block of North Homestead on Dec. 7. The man ran when the officer approached, Asmus said. It was determined that the woman had a restraining order against the man. When additional officers arrived, they could smell the strong odor of marijuana coming from the house and received permission to search it, Asmus said.

Police found 27 marijuana plants inside the home in two locations. The homeowner said he had a medical marijuana exemption, but medical marijuana users are only allowed to have 15 plants, Asmus said. Police are recommending that the man be charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance.

The man who had been involved in the argument later returned to the home and was arrested for a protection order violation as well as on multiple warrants for escape, driving with a suspended license and reckless driving.

Other arrests for the week included two for domestic violence assault, two for driving while intoxicated and three for driving with a suspended license.

During the week of Dec. 6 through Monday officers handed out four citations for failure to show proof of liability insurance, two for defective muffler and two for speeding. Additional citations were given for license and plates required and a defective tail light.

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