BASALT — A juvenile male from Basalt confessed to law-enforcement officials Wednesday that he and three accomplices planned to lure another man to a park, beat him, then dump his bound body in the woods so he would starve to death, the Basalt Police Department said Friday.
The plan was unveiled and thwarted by law officials from Basalt and Eagle County with the help of parents of some of the juveniles involved, according to Basalt police Sgt. Stu Curry.
“I commend those parents for doing the right thing,” he said.
The juvenile deemed to be the instigator of the plan was taken into custody Wednesday for violating terms of probation in another criminal matter, Curry said. The Eagle County District Attorney's Office will review the police report on the kidnapping case and determine what charges to file, according to Curry.
The primary suspect in the case is 15 years old and attends Basalt High School, Curry said. The three accomplices, all males from Basalt, weren't taken into custody, he said. They aren't considered a threat, so they were allowed to stay under the supervision of their parents, he said. All three accomplices are also students at Basalt High School and are “right around” the age of 15, Curry said.
Parents of some of the kids involved contacted a detective with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office on Monday evening after they found a hand-drawn map of Basalt's Arbaney Park with a vague reference to some event that was going to happen, according to a statement released by police. “The parents believed the event to be a drug deal,” the statement said.
Basalt School Resource Officer Brian Lemke joined the investigation on Tuesday and learned from a juvenile he questioned that the event was a planned kidnapping and assault, rather than a drug deal.
“The juvenile informed Officer Lemke that the map and description was for a plan by local gang members to beat, kidnap and potentially murder a rival gang member by luring him to that location,” the statement said.
Officers from Basalt and Eagle County searched the Basalt residence of the alleged instigator's parents on Wednesday and found a diagram outlining the planned kidnapping, according to the department's statement. They also found a narrative description of the plan, with numbered steps.
Curry said he hasn't seen adults plan out a crime that well — let alone juveniles.
“This kid had an intricate plan. It's that kind of Columbine stuff,” Curry said, referring to the detailed plans the two shooters made at Columbine High School near Littleton in 1999.
The officers also found an Airsoft pistol painted black to look more authentic. Airsoft guns are replicas of real guns. They fire plastic pellets that purportedly don't travel fast enough to break skin. Police learned the suspects were going to use the fake handgun, baseball bats and walkie-talkies to carry out their plan, the Basalt Police Department statement said.
The primary suspect also was interviewed on Wednesday and allegedly confessed that he came up with the plan and intended to carry it out. He said he had been working on it for four weeks, according to Curry. They planned to beat the targeted man “very badly” at Arbaney Park, bind him in duct tape and haul him to a spot near Ruedi Reservoir where they planned to “take him out into the woods and let him starve to death,” the police statement said.
“The juvenile suspect admitted he wanted the victim to suffer,” Curry said.
They hadn't launched their plan yet because they were pondering ways to try to lure the man to Arbaney Park, and they were seeking a vehicle to use that wouldn't be recognized, according to Curry.
The primary suspect confessed to having “issues” with his intended victim, according to the police statement. The issues involved drug dealing and a relationship with a juvenile female, though Curry said he didn't know.
Curry said the primary suspect could face charges of conspiracy to commit a kidnapping, conspiracy to commit assault and possibly a charge related to a plan to kill someone. However, Curry stressed he couldn't speak for the District Attorney's Office on the planned charges.
The primary suspect previously had been kicked out of the Basalt public school system, Curry said, and the police department had previous contact with him unrelated to this incident.
One of the three accomplices was more heavily involved than the other two, Curry said. He was uncertain what charges they will face.
If the kidnapping and assault would have been carried out, it would have represented a level of crime unseen in Basalt, Curry said.
“We don't see this ever here,” he said.
Police have noticed an increase in activity by Latino gangs in Basalt in recent years, particularly in drug dealing, he said. Curry described it as organized gang activity affiliated with groups from Mexico and El Salvador, rather than the action of copycats or wannabes. The Basalt Police Department is monitoring activity with agencies farther downvalley, where gang activity is greater, he said.
When asked if the public is at risk from the alleged gang activity, Curry responded, “No, I don't think they should feel threatened. We don't have a huge gang problem.”
However, there is activity, he said, and the police department needs the community to help in monitoring activities and reporting incidents, like the parents of the juvenile suspects did.
The name of the man who was going to be targeted wasn't released. Curry said he believed the man is 18 years old and had previously been kicked out of Basalt High School.