Stupid Criminal Tricks – cars, cameras, and dog hair

Missoula, Montana police recently put the bite on a serial car thief, with help from his cell phone — and his dog. The Missoulian reports that the man stole an SUV in Spokane, Washington and two more in Missoula, where he was arrested after being seen with one of the cars, which was under surveillance. (For readers not in Montana, the two cites are about 200 miles apart.) When police found the cars, they also found “dog-related items and dog hair with color, length and type consistent with a dog owned by Roth,” according to the newspaper’s account of court documents.

He had also taken pictures of the stolen cars with his cell phone.

And – in case you don’t think the guy was stupid enough – he was also charged with criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and driving a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license. Now, I don’t know if the drug paraphernalia was found in the stolen cars, or whether, like the leash, he just left it there. But you gotta know somebody’s gonna be looking for the car, right?

Put this in your comic novel–because you couldn’t write this in a serious mystery with a straight face.

A note on the admissibility of the dog hair evidence: a lab analysis and report will be required before the evidence can be admitted at trial, and the lab analyst will need to testify. But hair analysis–whether human or animal–is not new or unusual, and should not present any evidentiary issues. (Evidentiary issues – that’s legal talk for big doo-doo.)


Stupid Criminal Tricks #3 — check your pockets!

A Montana burglar used a credit card to pick a lock. Unfortunately, it was his own credit card — and he left it behind. Plus, the homeowner was at home, and spotted him. The Associated Press reports that he’s been arrested and charged with felony attempted burglary and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

No charge for criminal stupidity — that’s free.

Stupid Criminal Tricks #2: Writer working on book about kindness shot while hitchhiking? Say it isn’t so!

Writer working on book about kindness shot while hitchhiking? Say it isn’t so!

It isn’t so.

Montanans were understandably upset by the report that a man hitchhiking the country to research a book on kindness was shot in our state. But boy, were we peeved when it turned out he shot himself as a publicity stunt. I’m sure others shared my gratification at how quickly law enforcement discovered the fraud and cleared the man falsely accused, although he was held on an unrelated charge of drunk driving.

The Missoulian reports that Valley County sheriff’s deputies didn’t find a gun or ammo in the pickup of the man accused–who was driving a pickup that matched the one described–and found his denial credible. They used his GPS to trace his route–which put him miles away from the shooting at the time the alleged victim claimed it occurred. So they went back to the scene and found a small pistol in a nearby field. They traced the gun to West Virginia, where the alleged victim had bought it days earlier.

According to an August 15 report in the Glasgow Courier, the alleged victim has now been charged with one count of felony tampering with evidence and two misdemeanor counts of making a false report and obstructing a peace officer. He pleaded not guilty. He was released on $10,000 bond and allowed to leave the state to live with a relative near a VA hospital where he can be treated. In typical western graciousness, the sheriff expressed hope that he get evaluation for mental problems

You can’t make some of this stuff up.

Update: Lee Newspapers report that Ray Dolin is scheduled to appear in court on Monday, October 29, and is expected to plead guilty.


Stupid Criminal Tricks # 1

So you’re charged with burglary, and you think it might be a good idea to call your victim and apologize. Well, okay. I see the point, though I wouldn’t recommend it. But if do make the call, don’t encourage the victim to skip the trial. 

A Montana man who made that call found himself charged with tampering with a witness – in addition to felony charges for bail jumping (two counts), criminal endangerment, assault on a peace officer and burglary, and misdemeanor charges of bail jumping and criminal trespass to vehicles. More details from the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell.


 (Flathead County, Montana courthouse, from the David Berryman Courthouse Postcard Collection.)