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True Crime, April 16, 2008

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Smooth Criminals

Ada County Sheriff's Department deputies rounded up four Los Angeles transplants two weekends back for making a "California Stop" at the cashier's stand at an Eagle grocery store. As in, the four allegedly skipped the till entirely and stashed $10,000 worth of self-care products in the trunk of a car in the parking lot.

Wait ... that doesn't sound right. It's been a while since the author was fortunate enough to watch the Bewitched episode "Samantha's Shopping Spree," but it seems clear that $10,000 would buy more unibrow-separating and snot-absorbing agents than any four blokes (or three and a bird, in this case) could schlep outside before the cops arrived.

'Twas little surprise, then, when detectives announced five days later that their captives, Erik Leon Barahona, 18, Jorge A. Hernandez-Garcia, 25, Jose Avel Nieto-Suazo, 31 and Merlin Yardia Valasquez, 20, are suspected of having cherry-picked their 434 items from the inventories of eight stores across Southern Idaho. The dozens of boxes of over-the-counter allergy medicine may stick out most to readers in our current Methozoic Age of human devolution, but police say the other items in the stockpile speak to a less notorious plan—like resale on the black market. Aside from the antihistamines, the group's car trunk was packed with antacids, razors, women's face lotions, beard trimmers and, perhaps the ultimate "I am so ashamed of my purchase, I can't even face the checker and must buy it from a guy on the street" product, the alleged hair-replacement drug Rogaine. For their attempt to make the world a less-dispeptic and better-groomed place to wile away the hours, the four suspects were each charged with felony burglary.

Arsonists Are Interesting

Behold the man Nampa Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are calling a "person of interest" in the arson fire that made a mess of Northwest Nazarene University's Johnson Sports Center. The hunted mug is obviously white, if not downright iridescent, and though he isn't packing much kindling on the ol' scalp, a lack of flammable materials certainly didn't impede whoever started the two-alarm fire at approximately Simpsons-o'clock on March 3.

The blaze started in an outdoor storage area packed with artificial turf, rubber pellets and other construction materials for making an indoor soccer arena. Flames traveled from there up the side of the building, breaking a few windows and warping a double-door before the building's 51 fire-suppression sprinklers wrapped up the budding conflagration in a hug of approximately 110,000 gallons of water. Local firefighters arrived in time to drown out the remainder of the external fire just before The Family Guy started. The building reportedly didn't suffer any structural damage, but smoke and water did a number on the floors beneath the building's three basketball courts, university officials told the Idaho Press-Tribune.

The ATF is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a collar and conviction in the case. That kind of bread could keep a prematurely balding man outfitted in black-market Rogaine from freshman orientation through graduation.

Zion Robber:Life in Babylon?

When word arrived at the TC desk (that is to say, a BBS-connected Tandy in the bathroom) last month that an 18-year-old Burley man had been arrested for robbing a Payless Shoe Source with an airgun, the crime sounded so absurd that our account seemed to write itself (BW, True Crime, "More Strapping Young Men Arrests," April 2, 2008). Now it makes more sense. Of course, James Shallcross resorted to robbing a store whose lack of money is part of its name—after all, the best place in town to stage a faux-armed robbery had already been targeted so many times by another airgun-toting hooligan, the staff could probably smell black plastic firearms from a block away.

It should be noted that the above use of the word "best" indicates only that the Zions Bank in Burley probably paid more, as it were, than the Payless—not that the robber made a better decision by targeting one over the other. Indeed, if anyone can make Shallcross seem the sage, it is Steven Parker, who pleaded guilty on March 27 to robbing Burley's Zion branch for the second and third times. Parker was already on probation for robbing the bank in 2002 when, on September 12, 2007, he flashed a phony weapon to a teller and made off with about $17,000. According to an account of Parker's trial in the South Idaho Press, the 33-year-old Burley man pulled the same job on Oct. 17, 2007, but this time, several witnesses followed the stolen truck he was driving and notified Cassia County officers.

"Bah!" you say. "This shlub wanted to be caught. He missed the simple life, those three squares a day, that comfy striped onesie." The wild chase into which Parker drew a posse of county mounties, Twin Falls PD officers and a few Idaho State Troopers says otherwise. After leading his pursuers into Cassia County's maze of dirt roads, he ditched them somewhere within the patchwork of fields to the west of Burley. Parker made it almost to Jerome County before an officer spotted the truck hurtling along U.S. Highway 30. A second chase, like the second robbery, proved ill-fated: Parker soon lost control of his rig and crashed into a canal. At his June 6 sentencing, he could receive consecutive life sentences for two counts of robbery, as well as 14 years for grand theft and five years for eluding a police officer.