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Charges hold against alleged burglar of dead man's homeTell North Platte what you think
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Dennis G. Razes

Dennis G. Razes appeared in county court Thursday to contest charges connected to the February burglary of a home that belonged to Bob Hendrickson, who had died a week before his home was burglarized.

Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull presided over the contested hearing.

Razes is officially charged with burglary by forced entry to a residence and theft by unlawful taking of more than $1,500, both felonies.

After Hendrickson died, family members were in the process of packing and moving personal items out. They planned to sell the home. As they were packing, they found evidence of a break-in along wtih missing items, according to court statements.

Deputy Lincoln County Attorney Austin Leighty called his first witness, Deputy Sheriff Colton McGill, to the stand.

McGill testified that he received a call Feb. 27 about a possible break-in and robbery at the Hendrickson residence. When he arrived, he was met by Hendrickson's son-in-law and daughter, Lewis and Mary Johnson, who showed McGill a crawl space entrance.

At the entrance, McGill said a window was shattered, which gave access to the basement. In the basement, he found a flashlight and an empty lemonade can that were apparently left behind by intruders.

Johnson told the deputy she did not recognize the flashlight and her father only drank Dr. Pepper.

As McGill checked the property, he also discovered tire tracks, footprints and a door that showed evidence of forced entry. Johnson told McGill that outbuildings had been ransacked, too.

Along with finding Hendrickson's pickup in the driveway, McGill found a second flashlight that had been run over, a debit card and a Gerber brand folding-knife. He photographed the footprints and the tire tracks.

McGill testified that the tire tracks did not match Hendrickson's pickup. 

On cross examination, defense attorney Michael Nozicka asked again about the flashlight that was found in the basement and McGill reiterated that the Johnson told him that it did not belong to her father. 

Nozicka also asked McGill to again describe the items he found in the driveway.

Prosecutor Leighty then called a second witness -- Sgt. Dustin Achenbach -- to the stand, who told of his arrival at the scene and generally corroborated McGill’s testimony.  

Achenbach said during his inspection of the crime scene, he found a court document with Brian Spotts' name on it. 

The Johnsons then took Achenbach and detective Charles Nichols to a room where they had been packing boxes, and said that some of the boxes were missing.

Achenbach said he also examined the tire tracks that were in the snow and said the tire prints matched a truck that Spotts owned.

Later in the day, deputies went to Brian Spotts' residence, but his truck was not there. As the investigators drove through the alley behind the house, Achenbach said they found a trash can full of the same type of boxes that were described as missing from the Hendrickson household. 

Achenbach said they found the truck later at Modern Tire Pro, where it had been taken for new tires. In the back of the truck, they also found several missing items, showing outside the corner of a blanket. 

The tires on the truck matched the tire prints found at the crime scene, Achenbach said.

On cross examination, Nozicka asked Achenbach how he could recognize the tire tracks when he first saw them.

Achenbach said that after seeing the document with Spotts' name on it, he looked closely and noted the same aggressive tire pattern on the document. He said that he had knowledge of Spotts and the truck, because Spotts was a person of interest they had been investigating in connection with other robberies. 

Nozicka also asked how Dennis Razes' name came up in connection with the robbery. Auchenbach said he learned of Razes involvement from an interview with Spotts.

Leighty then called his final witness, Detective Nichols.

Nichols said he was with Auchenbach during the interview. He said Spotts admitted to the crime and then cooperated by giving names and details of all involved. 

Nichols said Spotts said that he and his wife made the plan to proceed with the burglary after they were told by Kathy Killham, a home health nurse for Hendrickson, that Hendrickson had died and the house was empty. 

In fact, Nichols said, Spotts said Killham actually gave him a shopping list of things she wanted. 

Nichols said warrants were issued and visits made to all people that Spotts indentified. Investigators searched the homes of the alleged participants and found items that were stolen, and the arrests were made. 

When cross examined, Nichols was asked why they didn't originally go to Razes' house. Nichols said deputies didn't know where he lived at the time.

Nozicka also asked what evidence they had that Razes was actually involved. 

Nichols again said the arrest was based upon information that Spotts gave the detectives in an interview.

Nozicka then asked Nichols if he knew of Spotts' federal indictments for possession of drugs.

Nichols said, "Yes, I did hear about that." 

Nozicka asked if he thought Spotts' information about Razes was reliable.

"Everything Spotts gave us was reliable," Nichols said.

Nozicka asked him how he found out that Spotts was federally indicted. 

Nichols said "I read about it in the North Platte Bulletin."

After the testimony was over, Nozicka made a final argument to Turnbull that Spotts, with a long criminal history, could not be considered a reliable source. He said that Spotts' statement that Razes was part of the robbery team was the prosecution's only evidence against his client.

He asked Turnbull to dismiss the charges due to lack of evidence. 

Turnbull denied the dismissal motion. Turnbull noted that the other information Spotts turned over was verified, so there was reasonable cause to believe Spotts' statements about Razes were true.

Turnbull bound the case over to district court.

Razes has been the Lincoln County Jail since Feb. 27, held on $25,000 bond, according to sheriff's records.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 4/3/2014
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