By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 22-year-old Colfax man has pleaded no contest and has been found guilty of burglarizing a property owned by state Representative Tom Larson and his wife, Mary.
Jesse Thoms of 408 Cedar Street in Colfax waived a preliminary hearing scheduled in Dunn County Circuit Court January 30 and instead pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of stealing property valued at less than $2,500 and one misdemeanor count of bail jumping.
A second misdemeanor count of bail jumping was dismissed on a motion from Dunn County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Maki.
Judge Conrad Richards placed Thoms on two years of probation and withheld sentence.
Thoms was charged as a party to a crime.
Richard Lipina, 24, of Colfax has been charged with one felony count of burglary in connection with the same incident.
According to the criminal complaint, at around noon on January 15, a man called the Dunn County sheriff’s department to report that he was following a gray Dodge Dakota with a camper on top that was pulling a trailer and was eastbound on state Highway 40.
The man said he suspected the occupants of the Dodge had take items from a residence near Colfax.
The man followed the vehicle into Chippewa County, and Chippewa County deputies eventually pulled over the Dodge Dakota and took the two male occupants into custody.
Prior to calling the sheriff’s department, the man had gone to Tom and Mary Larson’s residence to see if anyone was supposed to be removing items from the other residence where he had observed the Dodge Dakota.
A sheriff’s department investigator responded to the scene of the burglary on 970th Street in the Town of Colfax and observed a vehicle parked in the driveway across the road. The woman in the vehicle identified herself as Mary Larson and said the driveway was her son’s residence and the trailer house across the road belonged to her and her husband, Tom Larson.
Mary Larson told the deputy it appeared that someone had entered the trailer house as well as several small storage sheds.
According to the complaint, the deputy observed that snow had been shoveled out of the driveway as if to allow a vehicle to back into the driveway.
Additional investigators arrived and began taking photographs of the property where the burglary occurred and of the tracks in the snow on the road and in the driveway.
Mary Larson told investigators that no one had lived in the trailer house for a couple of years but that a few days earlier, she had seen a snowmobile track going up the driveway and around the trailer house but did not know who would have driven around the trailer.
Sheriff’s deputies observed that the two separate tracks in the snow appeared to be a snowmobile-type boot and a work boot.
Deputies also observed a piece of carpet that appeared to have been used to pull items from the trailer house out through the snow.
Deputies also observed pots, pans and other metal items piled just inside the door as though someone were going to return to collect them.
Chippewa County deputies reported that the individuals they had arrested were Jesse Thoms and Richard Lipina, and Dunn County deputies asked that the suspects’ boots be taken to see if they matched the tracks in the driveway.
One deputy visited Thoms’ residence at 408 Cedar Street, and a man and a woman living at 408 1/2 Cedar Street said they had observed the Dodge Dakota and trailer parked there and that it had left around 8 a.m. that morning.
Deputies then contacted Leo and Karen Herrera, Thoms’ parents, and they said Thoms had left earlier in the morning with a friend they knew as “Tony” and thought the two young men were doing some construction work.
A short while later, deputies determined that the boots taken from Thoms and Lipina matched the tracks in the driveway at the Tom and Mary Larson property.
Sheriff’s deputies determined that Thoms had been charged with criminal trespass to a dwelling in August and had been charged in October with theft of movable property, possessing marijuana, possessing drug paraphernalia and bail jumping.
A Colfax police officer had arrested Thoms and Lipina in September for stealing property from Canadian National Railroad in Colfax.
Lipina is scheduled for another hearing in Dunn County Circuit Court February 18.
Tom Larson represents the state’s 67th Assembly District.