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Burglars charged in Washington, Lake County

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LAKE COUNTY — Two residents of Pablo and Ronan face multiple charges for a Lake County crime spree that began with the theft of a stolen Dodge pickup truck from Ronan on Jan. 19, included ramming a car through Westland Seed to steal guns on Jan. 21 and ended with a burglary that same day in Adams County, Wash.

Thomas Earl Dempsey, 33, of Ronan, was charged with burglary by accountability, attempted burglary, and felony theft, according to a press release from the Lake County Sheriff's Department. Matthew Adam Darnell, 25, of Pablo, was charged with burglary, attempted burglary, and felony theft.

According to court documents, a 2000 Dodge Ram truck was reported stolen from a hangar at the Ronan airport on Jan. 19. The lock to the hangar had been cut with a 24-inch red lock cutter found at the scene of the crime. The truck was found in Dixon and authorities were told Dempsey had dropped it off and was picked up by a female in a white van.

On Jan. 19, there was a report of a 1989 Porsche stolen from a hangar at the Ronan airport.

Lake County Undersheriff Dan Yonkin interviewed Darnell on Jan. 25. Darnell said that he received a call from the woman believed to have picked up Dempsey in the white van on the night of Jan. 20 or early morning hours of Jan. 21. The female said Dempsey needed a driver and the job would pay $400. Darnell, who was high on methamphetamine, agreed to the job. Dempsey picked Darnell up at the Northwood Trailer Park in the stolen Porsche and drove toward Ronan with plans to rob local pawn and guns stores of weapons.

The duo tried to break the glass door of Ronan Sports and Western at 4:31 a.m., but the alarm sounded. The pair drove to Depoe Junction and cut the lock on the door. The alarm sounded at 5:15 a.m. and spooked the would-be thieves, and they headed back toward Ronan. When the pair arrived at the Ronan airport, Dempsey went into a building and retrieved keys for the courtesy car. Dempsey gave Darnell the keys and told him to follow the Porsche to Westland seed.

Darnell tried a couple of times to back the car into the store, but was unsuccessful. The men were spooked and left the area. Dempsey got angry with Darnell about his incompetence and told him to do a better job. They returned and Darnell was successful at running the car through the building.

In eight minutes, while wearing a mask and gloves Dempsey gave him, Darnell stole a .50 caliber rifle, a Tec 9 mm, a Remington 700 7 mm rifle, a 1900 12-gauge shotgun, and a Winchester model 12 16-gauge shotgun. Darnell busted the back window of the Porsche so the guns would fit.

When law enforcement arrived they found the courtesy car still in gear.

Dempsey and Darnell fled on Round Butte road, took an unknown dirt road, and ended up in Moiese. They gassed up the Porsche at the Moiese Mercantile, where a white van driven by a female different from the one who drove it in previous incidents. They caught up to the van, and Darnell began driving it. The vehicles took Highway 200 to St. Regis and fueled the van. They parked the Porsche at a nearby location to avoid detection and fueled it from a gas can.

On Jan. 23 authorities in Adams County, Wash. stopped the white van because it was believed to be involved in a burglary in that area. Dempsey an one of the females involved in the burglaries were detained by Adams County deputies. The deputies were able to recover some of the guns stolen from Westland Seed and the Porsche. The female told investigators that some of the guns were sold to a man called Cobra. Dempsey and Darnell were being held for the burglaries in Adams County on $250,000 bond last week. The females were released.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department plans to bring Dempsey and Darnell back to Montana for prosecution after the Washington charges are settled. 

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