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Sheriff’s office investigates burglary and arson cases

by Eric Mullens
HUERFANO —  The Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office has made three arrests in a burglary case and continues the investigation into that crime and a separate arson fire, both reported late last week.
Sheriff Bruce Newman told the World Journal that at approximately 5:30 am Thursday, March 15, a resident whose home is located east of Walsenburg off of CO Hwy. 10 heard a disturbance outside.  When he investigated he discovered a suspected burglar inside his outdoor shop building.  The homeowner shined a flashlight on the individual, who ran from the scene.  Sheriff’s office personnel, armed with a description of the suspect, began searching the area and spotted a man in a field who fit the description.  They gave chase in the vicinity of CR 130.  The suspect was caught, and law enforcement also discovered a female sitting in a car with a flat tire on Hwy. 10, who was also apprehended.
Newman said that about two hours after those subjects were transported to the jail, a report of a third individual walking on Hwy. 10, at about mile marker 30, was called in.   Sheriff’s deputies responded and took the third individual into custody.  That person reportedly was carrying a handgun, which later was identified as having been stolen in another burglary in eastern Colorado.
Three persons have been charged in the case; Makayla Eveatt, 33, of La Junta; Michael Szmutko, 27, of La Junta, and Tadryn Mason, 18, of Sugar City.  Mason was the suspect in possession of the stolen handgun when arrested.  Mason, Szmutko, and Eveatt all face charges of unlawful possession of controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia, second degree burglary, theft between $5,000 and $20,000, theft between $2,000 and  $5,000, possession of burglary tools, and first degree criminal trespass. Mason also was charged with violation of a protection order that forbid his possession of a firearm.  Szmutko was also charged with violation of bail bond conditions (three counts), four counts of failure to appear, and violation of a protection order.
Szmutko is being held on a $52,200 bond; Eveatt and Mason are both being held on $45,000 bonds.
Newman said both Szmutko and Mason had worked for the victim in the Thursday incident and had worked for another burglary victim who lived at a residence on CR 123.  That burglary was reported approximately three weeks ago.
Huerfano sheriff’s personnel believe the three individuals arrested last week may be connected to other burglaries in High Plains communities located in eastern Colorado, and will be coordinating investigations with other law enforcement agencies in the region.
Newman said investigations into these incidents continues.
Suspected arson
At approximately 10:50 pm Thursday, March 15, Huerfano County Fire Protection District firefighters and sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a structure fire  in the Navajo neighborhood, in the 5000 block of Comanche.
According to HCFPD Captain Fred Partee, due to high winds and the fact the structure was fully engulfed in flames upon arrival, a mutual aid request was made to the La Veta Fire Protection District, who also responded to the scene.
While the mobile home was reportedly unoccupied at the time of the fire, Newman confirmed there was still electric service to the residence.
The fire is considered suspicious, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has been called in.  The state’s arson investigator has been requested to inspect the scene.  The mobile home was destroyed by the fire, and Partee said about one-eighth of an acre of land was also burned due to high winds driving the fire.
LVFPD responded with two brush trucks and a water tender; HCFPD responded with two fire engines, two water tenders and one fire command vehicle.
Once the fire was extinguished, the scene was secured for the ongoing investigation.  No injuries were reported and the fire remains under investigation this week.