2 teens suspected of Stagecoach vandalism, arson

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Zane Russell Elston

— The Routt County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two local teenagers suspected of breaking into cars and a cabin as well as setting fires in Stagecoach on Tuesday night.

A 16-year-old boy who lives in Steamboat Springs and Zane Russell Elston, 18, were arrested Friday. The name of the 16-year-old is not being released because he is a juvenile.

Elston lives in the Stagecoach area but attended Steamboat Springs High School and graduated June 2. He earned $3,000 in local scholarships and is planning to attend the University of Colorado Boulder.

Undersheriff Ray Birch said the two are suspected of breaking into five cars and vandalizing construction equipment along with a cabin at the top of the old Stagecoach ski area. Birch said it is thought the teenagers also are the ones who started a bonfire outside the cabin using benches and propane tanks. A smoldering broom was found inside the cabin, which property co-owner Chris Wittemyer thought was an attempt to burn down the cabin.

“They just had a big bonfire at a time when we have a critical burn ban,” Birch said. “We’re taking that very seriously.”

Birch said they think a fifth car was broken into and a rifle was taken. Investigators recovered the rifle but have not identified the owner.

Elston and the juveniles were arrested on suspicion of the following charges:

■ Five counts of felony first-degree trespassing related to four cars and a semitrailer that were broken into.

■ Four counts of misdemeanor theft related to items taken from four cars.

■ Two counts of felony criminal mischief related to damage that was caused in excess of $1,000.

■ One count of felony second-degree burglary related to the cabin that was broken into.

■ One count of misdemeanor fourth-degree arson.

Birch said the investigation was headed up by deputies Jesse McAvoy and Shawn Hockaday as well as investigator T.J. Sisto.

“These guys really worked hard,” Birch said.

He said investigators interviewed a witness who reportedly chased the teenagers away Tuesday night.

“That witness was very observant,” Birch said.

He said that on Wednesday the suspects attempted to pawn some of the items stolen out of the cars at a Steamboat pawn shop.

“They got nervous and left,” Birch said.

Investigators then worked with the pawn shop to identify Elston.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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