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Joyriders, alleged thieves get locked upTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Jesse Belland
Courtesy Photo­Image
Katelyn McWain
Courtesy Photo­Image
Chance Ragle

Three young adults allegedly found too much joy during the season -- joyriding in stolen cars.

Their trouble started while Santa Claus was still delivering gifts early Christmas morning.

At 2:30 a.m. Dec. 25, police responded to a reported stolen car in the 1800 block of West Third. The victim said he left his 2006 Hyundai Tiberon warming up outside, unlocked with the engine running, and looked out to see it leaving their driveway.

The car belonged to Charles Lynch, according to court records. Police were called immediately and within minutes an officer on patrol passed a similar car, if not the same one, on a street near the North Platte High School. As the officer turned around to get a closer look, the stolen car sped up, driving recklessly on the slick streets, police information officer John Deal said.

Deal said the policeman did not give chase to avoid more danger. However, the police were able to generally follow tire tracks in the fresh snow, and found the car in the Red Cedars trailer court on the west side of town, unoccupied.

Second car

The next morning, police received a call about another stolen car in the 900 block of East Third, not far from the high school.

A woman said she left her 2001 Lexus running in the street in front of the house around 6:30 a.m., to warm up. She looked out to see it gone.

Police didn't find that car until afternoon.

At 1:37 p.m., an officer saw it near 1200 Burlington, Deal said. The officer tried to stop the car but it sped up. This time, the cop pursued to near Fifth and Poplar, where the pursuit ended because the suspect was driving recklessly, street conditions were poor and there was traffic, Deal said.

A short time later, an officer saw the stolen car near Fourth and Sycamore, driving westbound at more than 40 miles per hour. Again, police decided not to chase due to the dangers. However, the driver lost control and hit a stop sign on the corner of Fourth and Garfield, Deal said.

Police lost sight of the car near Second and Custer, but soon received a report of an abandoned vehicle at the Red Cedars trailer court. Police found the car still running but unoccupied. Footprints in the snow led to a mobile home where they found and questioned Jesse Belland, 26, of North Platte.

Under questioning, Belland admitted he was driving the Lexus when the officers were chasing it. And, police determined that Belland had a hand in both stolen vehicles.

Deal said the investigation also led to the arrests of Katelyn McWain, 19, of Brady and Chance Ragle, 23, of North Platte.

Scott Lucas, who owned the Lexus, said the car was banged up, the radio-CD player was damaged as well as his CD collection.

Belland was charged with several crimes -- two counts of theft by taking and with flight to avoid arrest, willful reckless driving, driving under suspension (a prior charge from June) and criminal mischief (damage to stop sign and vehicle) during the chase.

Ragle was also charged with two counts of theft by taking for both motor vehicles.

McWain was charged with one count of theft by taking for her role in the theft of the Hyundai. She is thought to have driven the first car.

In court, Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull set bonds for each suspect at $25,000. And, Turnbull set four bonds for Balland, $25,000 each, one for each charge.

Belland asked for a court appointed attorney and Turnbull assigned Stephen Potter to the case, as long as Potter does not have conflicts of interest with other clients.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 12/27/2012
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