By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 26-year-old Colfax man has pleaded no contest in Dunn County Circuit Court and has been found guilty of stealing iron from the Colfax Railroad Museum.
Donald J. Binder appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court April 28 along with his attorney, Donna Burger.
Binder was charged with one felony count of the theft of moveable property valued between $5,000 and $10,000 for iron train parts he took from the Colfax Railroad Museum and was charged with one misdemeanor count of theft of moveable property valued at less than $2,500 for steel he took from Anderson Bridges in Colfax.
Binder also was charged with one felony count of driving or operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent.
Judge Rod Smeltzer accepted Binder’s plea of no contest and found him guilty of the theft from the railroad museum and dismissed the charge of theft regarding steel taken from Anderson Bridges.
The felony charge of operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent also was dismissed.
Both of the dismissed charges will be read into the record for sentencing.
Judge Smeltzer ordered a pre-sentence investigation and scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 30.
Last October, Scott Kingzett, tour guide and caretaker at the Colfax Railroad Museum, contacted the Colfax Police Department to report some suspicious activity at the museum.
Kingzett had discovered that metal train parts stored outside at the museum had been moved around and placed in a different location. The movement of the iron pieces seemed to indicate that someone had sorted through the pile of parts and had separated out some of the iron, possibly to come back and take it later, Colfax Police Chief William Anderson said.
Three days later, on October 11, Beverly Sakalaucks, co-owner of the museum, contacted the Colfax Police Department to report that metal train parts had been stolen from the museum.
Two days later, on Monday, October 13, several recycling and scrap iron businesses were contacted, but none of them recognized those kinds of parts coming in.
The next day, Herb Sakalaucks, owner and curator of the Colfax Railroad Museum, reported to the Colfax Police Department that more metal train parts had been stolen.
On October 19, the Colfax Police Department received information about the possible theft of steel pieces from Anderson Bridges in Colfax and also about who might have been involved.
On October 20, the Colfax Police Department followed up on the information and discovered that steel stolen from Anderson Bridges was in the backyard of a residence in the Village of Colfax.
Additional investigation revealed that numerous steel pieces had been stolen from Anderson Bridges over the previous weeks and had been brought to a local recycling business and scrapped.
Hiring a machinist to make a replacement train part for the museum would cost between $4,000 and $5,000, Sakalaucks said, compared to the relatively small amount someone would get from selling the item for scrap.
Binder has been charged with theft several times over the past several years.
Judge Smeltzer sentenced Binder to 120 days in jail with credit for 67 days already served for an incident of theft in 2013, and withheld sentencing for an incident in April of 2014 and placed Binder on one year of probation.