Troopers and DA close in on suspects of Turnagain Arm burglaries
By Ken Smith
A rash of burglaries and thefts in Turnagain Arm communities is part of what investigators believe is a burglary ring that stretches from Talkeetna to Hope. Four home break-ins that have been investigated occurred in Indian, Bird, Girdwood, and Hope from October to mid-November, said Sgt. Michael Zweifel, the lead investigator in the Girdwood area. And he believes they’re all connected to the same suspects.
In another case of thefts in Hope and Turnagain Pass, Hope resident James Lee III was arrested Nov. 20 for three outstanding warrants, including one for escaping from a half-way house. He was also facing two warrants for a no-bail and failure to appear in court for six felony charges of theft, burglary, and vehicle theft.
In his connection with the Hope and Turnagain Pass thefts and stolen vehicle, Lee is facing additional charges.
“The cases have been turned over to the district attorney’s office which is reviewing the cases and plan on filing additional charges against Mr. Lee,” said Zweifel.
Lee, 36, was captured after evading troopers and escaping into the woods on Nov. 19 near mile 77 of the Seward Highway. He emerged from the woods the following day and was picked up by a passerby and brought to Girdwood and dropped off at the Tesoro station to meet medics for treatment of hypothermia, said Zweifel. “He was treated by the Girdwood medics and transported to Providence and was arrested once he was released from the hospital.”
Zweifel said some Hope residents have told him that they believe Lee was involved in past thefts in the community. However, Zweifel would not comment on whether Lee was a suspect in any of the burglaries that the troopers are investigating for the recent home break-ins over the past two months. State prosecutors at the district attorney’s office are investigating Lee for possible thefts in the area, but no charges have been filed yet, said Regan Williams, a prosecutor in the case.
Zweifel said investigations into the burglaries and thefts across the state are far-reaching and troopers are working closely with the district attorney’s office of special prosecution “to make a nice, solid case.”
“The investigation is wrapped up on our end,” he said, “but other law enforcement entities are still working on things in their areas, but in the Girdwood area, we’ve wrapped it up.”
Zweifel said he’s investigated home-break-ins from Indian to Girdwood and that there are five to eight suspects. Six search warrants were served in Hope and Anchorage. No arrests have been made but he expects action to be taken soon.