McCOOK, Nebraska -- The last of four burglars who pillaged a rural farmhouse southwest of Indianola in June, and were captured after the property owner happened to see them driving away, was sentenced to probation last week. The last offender to be sentenced, Thomas Ortiz, 27, was convicted of a Class IV felony offense of possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to 24 months probation.
Ortiz originally was charged with additional offenses of theft by unlawful taking, criminal trespass, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, those charges were all dismissed as part of a plea agreement offered by Red Willow County Attorney Paul Wood in September.
Ortiz's accomplices in the crime, 29-year-old Rebecca L. Woody of No. 9 Parkview, 33-year-old Dustin W. Banzhaf of 1404 West 10th Street and 28-year-old Elliott B. Ferneau of 1109 E. Third Street, also all received probation for their involvement.
The group was arrested after a farmer working a wheat field noticed their van leaving an unoccupied farmhouse he owned and primarily used for storage of personal items. The farmer pursued the group and contacted authorities as they attempted to flee and threw items from the farmhouse out of the van windows.
In addition to recovering items stolen from the farmhouse, and identifying eight locations along the van's route where items were thrown from the vehicle during the chase, arresting officers found a marijuana pipe, a medicine bottle containing marijuana and two other pipes with methamphetamine residue on them in the van's glovebox.
Woody was identified as the driver of the van and pleaded guilty to charges of second degree criminal trespass and a Class I misdemeanor of theft by unlawful taking less than $500. She was sentenced to 12 months probation in Red Willow County Court.
Banzhaf and Ferneau were passengers in the back of the van. Banzhaf was convicted of a Class I misdemeanor of theft by unlawful taking less than $500 and second degree criminal trespass. He was sentenced to 18 months probation in August and also received 30 days jail time, with credit for three days already served, however his jail sentence was suspended until February 2013 and could be waived by the court at the recommendation of his probation officer.
Ferneau was sentenced to 12 months probation in August in Red Willow County Court for his role. Ferneau was convicted of the same offenses, a Class I misdemeanor of theft by unlawful taking less than $500 and a second degree criminal trespass charge.