Updated June 25, 2010 at 12:55 a.m.
Steamboat Springs When a burglar or burglars at a Dakota Ridge house failed to get into a safe holding 50 to 60 pieces of expensive jewelry Wednesday morning, they simply took the safe with them, even as a Routt County Sheriff’s Office investigator was pulling into the driveway.
When the losses were tallied, watches, necklaces and other jewelry worth more than $110,000 were taken from the house, along with a small coin collection worth $273.
When a caretaker arrived at the home at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, he noticed that an interior door had been kicked off the hinges and called 911, thinking it was a burglary from the night before. Investigator Ken Klinger said the caretaker saw the safe that was taken from the house on the ground about 15 yards from the house. He went inside to make another phone call and then noticed the safe was gone five minutes later as Klinger arrived at the house.
Klinger called for backup from Deputy Tommie Belz, and the two searched the area. They found evidence that the burglar or burglars stopped to rest four times while carrying the 300-pound safe down a path toward the road, about 50 yards, where they likely put it in a waiting car. Several construction workers were in the area, but nobody reported seeing the person or people.
Klinger said there was evidence inside the house that someone tried to get into the safe. He said there was no major damage other than to the door.
“That guy had to have known what he was doing,” Klinger said, because of the place the car was parked and because the theft appeared to be targeted. There were no signs of forced entry, and the house’s security system was not triggered.
“This is definitely a known person — somebody who had been in there,” evidence technician Mellisa Baumgartner said.
Klinger said fingerprints and DNA were collected from the house. He said some is being analyzed locally, and some is being sent to Colorado Bureau of Investigation labs in Denver or Grand Junction.
There have been two other high-value burglaries in Routt County in recent months. In one, a coin collection valued at $100,000 was taken from a house along U.S. Highway 40 in western Routt County. In a separate incident, more than a dozen guns were taken from a home on Routt County Road 33A.
Investigators said they suspected those burglaries were related, and two men were arrested in connection with the case. Three more warrants are outstanding.
Klinger said Thursday that the Dakota Ridge case was not related to the other two, but it could be a sign of more burglaries of unoccupied homes in the county.
“We’ve probably got more houses in the county that are burglarized that we don’t know about yet,” he said.
Baumgartner said part of the problem is a false sense of security in Routt County. She said homeowners should always use security systems.