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Burglary charges dismissed due to lack of evidenceTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Dawn M. Herweh

Sarah Herweh got out of jail Thursday after Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull ruled there was insufficient probable cause to prosecute her for two burglaries.

Herweh was charged June 20 along with two men for breaking into Karl Kirkland’s house at 6650 S. Buffalo Road and stealing guns. The charges came after law enforcement spent all night waiting for them to arrive, after officers learned that the alleged theft was likely.

Herweh was already wanted for her part in the alleged theft of jewelry on June 2 from a home near Hershey.

In that case, a man on West Vannoy Dr. south of Hershey reported that his home was broken into and guns and jewelry were missing, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office.

Earlier that day, a deputy sheriff stopped a suspicious pickup near the Hershey interstate lake with Kent Smith, 26; Dawn Herweh, 36, and Jenna Wilson, 27. During the stop, the deputy found jewelry in the pickup, the sheriff’s office said.  


But both charges were dismissed against Herweh Thursday in contested preliminary hearings.  

The first hearing was about Herweh’s part in the house break-in south of Hershey.

Deputy County Attorney Austin Leighty called Deputy Jeff Gaasch to the stand, who said he discovered a stocking cap full of jewelry on June 2 under the back seat of the pickup in which Herweh was a passenger.

When no one claimed ownership of the jewelry, Gaasch said he took the jewelry into possession.

Deputy Tom Courter then testified that he investigated the break-in at the house when it was reported later that day. The investigation led Courter to the pickup driver, Kent Smith, along with Herweh and Wilson. Smith admitted he drove the pickup to the house south of Hershey, which belongs to Jenna Wilson’s parents.

Courter said Smith told him Wilson needed to get some things from the house, so they drove out there. Smith said he stayed in the pickup. Wilson and Herweh entered the house and returned with a stocking cap.

Courter said he later heard Wilson apologize to Herweh for what had happened. He also said he took the cap full of jewelry to the house and the owner identified it.

When the testimony was over, Leighty told the court there was sufficient evidence to bind the case over to district court, but Defense Attorney Kent Florom said Wilson’s apology indicated Herweh didn't know anything about the stolen jewelry.

Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull agreed with Florom and dismissed the charge.


Then the court considered the second charge against Herweh, for her role in the June 20 events on South Buffalo Bill Avenue.  

Leighty called North Platte police investigator Nate Weems to the stand.

Weems said police received a tip that a burglary might have occurred at the house, plus another tip that another burglary was going to occur. 

Weems and an FBI agent went out and checked the property. They found the back door had already been forced open.

Weems said they found several guns outside, behind the house and the inside was full of stuff, including a large number of weapons.

He said law officers stationed a team around the property to catch the burglars.

With the help of other law officers as well as the FBI and an aircraft overhead, a stakeout was setup at 4 p.m. on July 19 until 5 a.m. the next morning.    

Around 5 a.m., Weems said they decided that no one was coming and started to close down the operation, but at about the same time, air support notified them that a suspicious vehicle was coming. 

The team repositioned themselves and the suspects arrived, he said.

After the suspects allegedly stole the guns, several of them ran away on foot. Thermal imaging from the aircraft indicated four suspects, but officers found only three.

Weems said he chased suspects on foot but couldn’t make contact, but he found Herweh sitting in the front seat of the suspect vehicle. He said duffel bags of guns and other items were apparently dropped as the suspects fled.

On cross-examination, Florom asked Weems if he and the FBI agent left the back door open the first time they went to the property.

They did leave it open, Weems said.

Weems said they were able to go through the opening without moving the door, but couldn't close it easily because of boxes and belongings that surrounded it.

When asked by Florom if the house could be considered a "hoarders" place, Weems said yes.

After the testimony, Leighty told the court that evidence indicated Herweh was involved in the burglary and should be bound over for trial.

But Florom said the charge against his client was for forced entry burglary, and he said state statute is clear that there must be evidence of a forced intrusion. With the door open, there was no evidence to support the charge.

Florom also noted Weems’ testimony that he found Herweh in the vehicle but she was not out of breath or sweating, which indicated she had not run or been chased.

Turnbull agreed and also dismissed that charge based on the language of the statute. In order to be charged with forced entrance, Turnbull agreed that evidence would need to show they broke into the house, rather than walking through a partially open door.

Turnbull told her she would be processed and released but he also told her that charges could be filed again if more evidence becomes apparent.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 8/1/2014
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