A cooler and a camera help crack the case

Carol Walker
When April Purdie, manager for Hill City Turtle Town, arrived at work on Friday morning, Oct. 27, a little before 10 a.m., she knew something was wrong as soon as she unlocked the back door and stepped into the building. A table kept in front of an old, secured access door was not in its place. Someone had pushed through that old door during the night. By 10:15 a.m. Pennington County Sheriff’s Office deputy Doug Kimball was on site meeting with Purdie and Chris Busby, owner of the business.
“There were really no signs of forced entry other than the table being moved out of the way,” said Kimball.
Even though the table was heavy with shirt boxes on it, Kimball believes the burglars pushed with steady force, opening the door. They were able to make off with a small sentry safe on the shelf, but were not able to get much from the larger electronic drop safe—only a few $5 and $1 bills and some coins. Purdie credits the cash control systems they have in place for keeping the loss minimal. Needless to say, this event delayed the opening of Turtle Town for the day.
Thanks to security camera footage from the cafe next door, by the afternoon of Oct. 27, three people were arrested: Joseph Patterson, 35, of Hill City, Hayley Still, 19, and Krzysztof Skora, 33. All three were charged with Burglary and Grand Theft, which means the value of stolen items total $5,000 to $100,000. 
“When people heard about the arrest on the Monday morning news, everybody started calling me to find out what happened,” said Purdie.
It is believed the burglars were in Turtle Town between 3 and 4 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 27. Security cameras were in place, but the perpetrators were able to locate the cord, unplug the WiFi router and disable the security cameras as well as the heat and internet.
Purdie said their alarm system will be evaluated. Right now their cameras are not infrared, but the new ones will have that capability so that people will be visible on the camera at night.
“Until that time, we will keep the lights on at night,” said Purdie.
Purdie did not remember seeing any of the suspects in Turtle Town before. She doesn’t think they intentionally targeted the business she manages.
“I just think they saw an opportunity and took it,” said Purdie.
Purdie contacted Patty Colvin, owner of the Hill City Cafe, to determine if the cameras for the cafe picked up anything. As they looked at the footage, they noticed a van.
“The camera showed the van backing out and then back in and then out and in again,” said Colvin. “Krystal and I drove around town to see if we could see the van.”
Krystal Colvin, Patty’s daughter, saw on the security camera that there were stickers on the mirror of the van and remembered seeing a van like that, possibly at the Super 8.
At the time of the burglary, one of Colvin’s employees was cleaning behind the grill and the vents, something which is done once a week and cannot be done during business hours. While he was working Still came next door to talk to the employee, even attempting to make a sandwich. Colvin thinks it was an attempt to distract him from noticing what was going on at Turtle Town. The girl had been in the Hill City Cafe before and knew some of the employees, but Colvin was not comfortable with her.
“I told my staff, ‘I don’t want her around here,’” said Colvin.
When Kimball saw what they had on their security cameras he was able to locate the silver Dodge Caravan and see what was inside, a silver cooler with fly-fishing stickers all over it. This potentially connected the owners of the van to another robbery less than a week prior.
According to Kimball, a Michigan guest at McGregor and Main Luxury Lofts in Hill City had his car broken into while it was parked in the parking lot diagonal from the back of the building. Inside the car was a silver cooler covered with fly-fishing stickers.
“There was $10,000 worth of climbing and fishing equipment in the vehicle along with the cooler with stickers on it,” said Kimball.
Kimball spent quite a bit of time attempting to contact the Michigan resident. When he finally got through, it was confirmed that the cooler was his.
Because of the security camera footage from the Hill City Cafe and the cooler in the van, there was enough probable cause to request a search warrant. Once that was secured, Investigator Jake Fredericksen was assigned to the case. He and a apir of investigators, as well as a sheriff’s office sergeant  entered the Hill City Super 8 Motel to search the room occupied by Patterson, Skora and Still.
While the investigators were inside, Kimball kept an eye on the door of the motel and the suspect’s vehicle to make sure no one left the building. After the trio was arrested, Kimball was responsible for the suspects while the room was searched thoroughly. A majority of the money was found under the mattress in the motel room.
“Never advertise what you have in your car, and lock it up. It took me 40 minutes to reach the man in Michigan. Had the suspects left town during that time, it wouldn’t have been as easy to track them down. We wouldn’t have the stolen wallet and ID. We were fortunate on this one,” said Kimball.
Colvin hopes that if these suspects are found guilty there will be consequences. She thinks people are often arrested and then nothing happens to them.
“It is important to lock cars up and don’t leave valuable items in them. It is also important to reevaluate security at your home site too,” said Purdie.
The court date for the three who were arrested has been set for Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 3 p.m. Patterson was released on his own recognizance, while Skora is in the Pennington County jail with a $2,000 bond and Still is in jail with a $250 bond.

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