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County court report: ATM thieves convicted, accused arson to contest chargesTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Levi J. Unruh
Courtesy Photo­Image
James E. Peterson
Courtesy Photo­Image
Chauncey Mendoza

On the advice of defense attorney Michael Nozicka, Levi Unruh agreed Thursday to plead no contest in court to aiding an abetting a fraud. 

The charges came from the theft and unauthorized use of an ATM card. Unruh, 20, gave two other people a ride to an ATM machine, where he knew they would illegally draw money out of the card owner's account, according to prosecutor Austin Leighty.

Police said the card was stolen May 31 from the wallet of a woman who fell down the stairs at the Elm’s Lodge on East Fourth.

Three hundred dollars was lifted from the woman’s bank account, police said.

When it came to sentencing, Leighty said he preferred that Unruh be fined, but he would accept the court's judgment if the sentence was a short stay in jail (time already served) and restitution.

Turnbull sentenced Unruh to four days in jail, with credit for five days served, and the fifth day counted in exchange for court costs.  

Unruh was also ordered to pay $101 restitution and was sent to the office of clerk of the court to make payment arrangements.

Later in the day, co-defendant Nathan Beebe pled guilty to theft by deception for his part in using the stolen ATM card. 

Turnbull gave him the same sentence as Unruh and also ordered him to pay $101 in restitution.

A third defendant, Anthony McGilvray, has yet to face the charges. He paid the required $1,000 of a $10,000 bond and was released from jail Monday, pending his court appearance.



In other court action Thursday,James Peterson appeared for a preliminary hearing on several charges, including arson, assault and child abuse – all felonies.

Attorney Robert Lindemeier told the court that his client wants to contest the charges, and the preliminary hearing was continued to June 19.

Police say Peterson shot flames toward his girlfriend and child with an aerosol can and a lighter on May 26.

Police were called around 5:30 p.m. to their home in the 2300 block of Rodeo Rd. Police investigator John Deal said visible burn marks were found in the home, however, the fire was put out by the girlfriend and the fire department was never called.

Police said Peterson took an aerosol can containing flammable material and sprayed it at the woman, who was holding the child, and lit a lighter, causing the aerosol to ignite, but the woman was able to move away from the flames and no one was injured.

Peterson’s bond remains at $250,000.



Chauncey Mendoza, 30, appeared for sentencing on third-degree domestic assault on April 12.

When police arrived at the house around 8:30 p.m., they heard screams from inside and had to forcibly enter. They found evidence that Mendoza assaulted and strangled his wife.

Defense attorney Robert Lindemeier asked the court to sentence Mendoza to probation, in accord with a recommendation after a pre-sentence investigation.  "He appears to be motivated to cooperate,” Lindemeier said, “and also it appears his wife also wants to keep the family together.”

Turnbull agreed, but noted that Mendoza's previous criminal record is "not good." He sentenced Mendoza to 14 months probation, and ordered him to enter and complete a domestic abuse treatment program, along with parenting classes and counseling, during his probation.



Aaron Hecksel admitted to violating probation, and voluntarily turned himself in to law officers. 

"I'm doing all I can to be better,” he told Turnbull. “I have a good relationship with my girlfriend. I've grown up a little bit.”

Turnbull said that he hoped he would continue to do better.

However, he sentenced him to 60 days in jail and gave him credit for 10 days served.

Hecksel, 28, was charged with third-degree domestic assault in July 2013.  

Hecksel reportedly jumped off a North Platte overpass into an empty coal car of a train that was passing below in March 2012. At the time, he was a transient who lived at the Connection homeless shelter.

He was injured in the jump, suffering cuts and broken bones. He was taken to Great Plains Regional Medical Center and eventually recovered.  



Kathy Clifton appeared for a preliminary hearing on a felony shoplifting charge. Defense attorney Blaine Gillett advised her to plead guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor shoplifting, which the county attorney offered.

All merchandise has been recovered, officials said.

Before approving the plea deal, Turnbull advised Clifton that she faced a maximum sentence of one year in jail and $1,000 fine. Clifton accepted the agreement and pled guilty.

Clifton was sentenced to three days in jail, given credit for 4 days served with the extra day covering court costs.

An associated charge of disturbing the peace was dismissed.



George Fisher pled no contest to misdemeanor domestic assault. Turnbull ordered a pre-sentence investigation along with a drug and alcohol evaluation. 


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 6/6/2014
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