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WALDO CANYON FIRE: Pair suspected of looting may face enhanced penalties

By: LANCE BENZEL
July 10, 2012
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photo - Belinda Wells-Yates, 38, and Shane Garrett, 36 Photo by
Belinda Wells-Yates, 38, and Shane Garrett, 36 Photo by  

A man and woman arrested on suspicion of breaking into the home of a Waldo Canyon fire evacuee could face enhanced penalties.

In addition to theft-related counts, Belinda Wells-Yates, 38, and Shane Garrett, 36, were each charged in court Tuesday with multiple counts alleging they are “habitual offenders,” a sentence enhancer with the potential to quadruple any penalties, according to El Paso County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Lee Richards.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation announced their arrests June 28 as flames were raging in the foothills overlooking Colorado Springs. The fire claimed 346 homes and took the lives of a Mountain Shadows neighborhood couple.

Numerous break-ins were reported when evacuees returned to their homes, and there was a string of car break ins at hotels where evacuees took refuge.

Authorities are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of anyone else stealing from homes during the fire.

The CBI said in a news release it was led to Yates and Garrett based on an unrelated identity theft complaint, presumably involving materials taken during the burglary. The agency did not provide the location of the looted home. Monument police and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.

During a brief court appearance Tuesday, Wells-Yates was charged with two counts of burglary; three counts each of identity theft and habitual offender; and one count each of theft and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. All are felonies. Her next court date was unavailable.

Garrett was charged with two counts of identity theft; three counts of habitual offender; and one count each of theft and possession of meth with the intent to distribute – all felonies. He is due to return to court July 24.

Garrett has a history of arrests, including for drug possession, robbery and burglary. Wells-Yates has also had repeated brushes with the law, including a robbery arrest and a pending charges of automobile theft.

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