Police arrest suspect in thefts

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A tip from an eyewitness helped Steamboat Springs police arrest a man who confessed to being involved in a series of recent car break-ins.

Daniel Esteban Duarte, 18, of Craig, was arrested Wednesday after confessing to his involvement in the crimes, Steamboat Springs police Sgt. Joel Rae said. Duarte was arrested on suspicion of criminal mischief, first-degree criminal trespass, second-degree criminal trespass and theft. Warrants have been issued for two other suspects, 23-year-old Alejandro Nunez Villalobos, 23, and David Valenzuela, 18, both of Craig.

"We've had several recent first-degree criminal trespasses in the past three weeks, basically people breaking into cars and taking stuff -- purses, stereos, miscellaneous items," Rae said. "There were broken windows on a couple, but most were crimes of opportunity where people had left their doors unlocked."

The car break-ins were reported at Fish Creek Falls Condominiums, Eaglepointe Townhomes and Whistler Townhomes, Rae said.

A break in the case came about 1:30 a.m. April 17, when a person walking through a parking lot on Cypress Court said he saw a man getting out of one vehicle holding a car stereo and getting into a white Honda Accord with two other men. The eyewitness called police, who were unable to contact the vehicle but did track it to Craig.

On Tuesday, Steamboat police contacted the vehicle's owner and went to Craig to interview him. The vehicle's owner said he had loaned the car to three men and gave police a vague description of them, saying he didn't know the last names of any, Rae said.

While interviewing the car's owner, Detective Bob DelValle saw inside the car a key with a Steamboat Resorts tag. Based on that, police called Steamboat Resorts and were able to track down Duarte, who was an employee of the company, Rae said.

When questioned by police, Duarte said he was in the car and that he watched as one of the other men entered a vehicle. He said he didn't think the man took anything out of that vehicle. He also said the men with him had three other car stereos in the car, Rae said.

Duarte allegedly told police he knew the vehicles were being entered and stereos were being stolen, and that it was "bad," Rae said. He also allegedly said a stick was used to break some car windows but that he didn't know where the stick was.

Police recovered one Alpine car stereo from Duarte, but several others that police think were stolen by the same group of people are missing. Those include a Pioneer stereo stolen from a car in the 1100 block of 13th Street, a Pioneer stereo stolen from a car in the 400 block of Eaglepointe Drive and a Sony CD/stereo player stolen from the 400 block of Tamarack Drive.

"We believe there are other incidents out there, so we urge people to lock their cars and to report suspicious vehicles," Rae said. "It's absolutely better to call us and have it turn out to be nothing than to see something strange and not call us, and have it turn out to be something."

-- To reach Melissa Roddy, call 871-4233

or e-mail mroddy@steamboatpilot.com

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