Stolen vehicles, a torched home, and a trail of crime across two states.
Recent burglaries and property damage incidents in the Selway area are just part of a series of criminal activities committed in several jurisdictions, allegedly by two men who were arrested in Idaho County earlier this month.
Jeremy D. Watson, 39, of Lewiston, is set for arraignment Feb. 4; and Bruce E. Finnell, Jr., 24, of Kooskia, is set for a Feb. 1 preliminary hearing.
According to information from Detective Brian Hewson, Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, and court records, a series of crimes were committed from Dec. 28 to Jan. 6, starting in Grangeville and continuing into Selway Road area, and into Butte and Custer counties. Vehicles, varying items of personal property, cash and a firearm were among the items stolen in these incidents that were gained by burglarizing private residences and businesses.
In some instances, investigators recovered some of the stolen items – including a pickup, motorcycle and firearm – but some items were disposed of outside and of those some were burned. One home broken into during these incidents suffered thousands of dollars in damage, and a second was destroyed in a fire.
“It’s heartbreaking for the victims in this,” said Detective Brian Hewson, Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, for the losses that won’t ever be made whole in the wake of these crimes.
Of these incidents, the Dec. 31 house fire at 137 Swiftwater Road was caused by a barbeque that had been brought into the residence to cook with, according to court records. No charges are expected in this incident, according to Hewson, as the fire is believed to have been accidental.
“You have to prove there was willful intent,” he said. “As far as what we’ve looked at, we can’t prove it was an intentionally set fire
According to investigators, Finnell and Watson were allegedly involved in these incidents, starting Dec. 28 when Finnell is alleged to have stolen a 2011 Ford F150 pickup, belonging to William Perry of Grangeville, along with a Glock 30 .45-caliber handgun that was inside. The pair is alleged to have traveled in the vehicle to gamble at a Montana casino, coming back into Idaho at Arco. Here, Finnell is alleged to have burgled two businesses, one of which he was formerly employed at, and stolen a 2008 Yamaha YZF450 motorcycle, credit cards, Apple iPad tablet, checks and an unidentified amount of cash, and tools. The pair traveled back to Montana, and into Idaho where they turned up the Selway and into Swifwater where the truck became stuck in the deep snow.
During this time, the pair is alleged to have broken into the Steve and Sherrie Clausen residence on Selway Road where they allegedly consumed the owner’s stored food, rummaged through personal property, and damaged belongings from burning matches and food staining.
Following a Jan. 3 citizen report of an unknown person staying at the Clausen residence, ICSO deputies responded and subsequently arrested Watson at the residence. The following day, Jan. 4, Finnell was taken into custody without incident at a Clear Creek Road residence.
Idaho County is charging Watson with felony burglary, and misdemeanor petit theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. Finnell is being charged with several felonies: burglary, malicious injury to property, two counts of grand theft and possession of stolen property. For incidents in Arco, Butte County has charged Finnell with two counts of burglary, two counts of grand theft, and grand theft by possession of stolen property, all felonies.
According to Hewson, Finnell may also face related charges out of Custer County. The possibility of more charges against the pair is possible as evidence is processed and investigation continues.