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January 6, 2014
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Third of 3 men pleads guilty in armed robbery

EAGLE — The third of three men who kicked in the front door of a woman’s home and robbed her at gunpoint has pleaded guilty.

Sergio Sanchez admitted his guilt Monday morning as the jury was being selected for his week-long felony trial.

“I’m relieved it’s over,” said the 76-year-old Basalt woman, who asked that her name not be used.

“When he was holding that gun to my head, I kept thinking that my kids are going to get word that their mother has been murdered,” she said. “I would never get to meet my grandchild.”

Guilty plea trifecta

Sanchez’s two accomplices, Raphael Vega-Sanchez and Michael Hawkins, had already pleaded guilty and were prepared to testify against Sanchez, said prosecutors Lisa Hunt and John Franks.

Vega-Sanchez, who’s not related to Sergio, pleaded guilty last Thursday to conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit theft, both Class 4 felonies. He will be sentenced Feb. 5 and is expected to serve six years in a youth offender detention facility.

Vega-Sanchez was 17 when he took part in the robbery.

Hawkins was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his part in the robbery. When he was being sentenced, District Court Judge Fred Gannett said it could be reduced if he cooperated with prosecutors.

Sanchez’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 26.

“There was so much progress since this case started, thanks to the work of Detective Dan Loya with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Rick Wallingford, the Basalt Police Department and other law enforcement agencies,” Franks said.

What happened that day

On Nov. 28, 2012, the woman had returned home the day before from Oregon, where she had been visiting one of her sons for Thanksgiving. She was in the shower when she heard a loud noise coming from the front of her home.

They kicked in her front door and confronted her. They held her at gunpoint and forced her onto her bed, face down, and then forced her into the kitchen where she was forced to give them $70 from her purse. They forced her into the shower and threatened that they’d kill her if she called the police.

She waited for a few minutes, then got dressed and fled to a neighbor’s home where she called police.

Among the items stolen from the woman were a ring worth $24,000, an iPhone and an iPad. The total came to $27,000.

Help from Oregon

Her son in Oregon said he was upset because he was all the way out there and his mother was in Basalt.

Then he remembers that he had set up his mother’s iPhone the previous day, before his mother flew back to Colorado. Suddenly he realized he could probably locate it using a program designed to help find lost or stolen phones.

He sat down in front of his computer and began tracking the phone. Sure enough, the red dot from its tracking system led him straight down Interstate 70 toward Rifle. He didn’t know who else to contact in Colorado, so he called his brother, who turned the information over to the police.

He took several screen shots of the images, which turned out to be the only physical evidence of the phone’s movement.

“Apple doesn’t keep those images for more than 24 hours, as part of their privacy policy,” Hunt said.

Police found the phone in Rifle’s Shawnee Court area. In fact, it was on a window ledge in Hawkins’ bedroom, in a home where he was staying. Police also found a cloth Crown Royal bag containing four stolen rings. One of those rings was later identified as belonging to the victim.

Hawkins had offered to sell the friend the iPhone, but the friend said that wouldn’t be smart because the phone could be tracked, said Rick Wallingford, a criminal investigator for the district attorney’s office.

Hawkins told the friend that he and Sanchez had broken into a home that they thought would be unoccupied, but wasn’t, Wallingford testified.

Sanchez and Hawkins reportedly told the friend they had not expected anyone to be in the home when they decided to rob it, and that they had really “effed up,” Wallingford said.

When Basalt Police officer Brian Lemke searched a shed at Sanchez’s mother’s home, he found a small black backpack. The backpack was clean, but everything else in the shed was dusty and dirty, Lemke said.

He said it was heavy when he picked it up. He opened it to find two handguns, a Taurus .38 caliber revolver and a Glock 19, a 9 millimeter semi-automatic. The Taurus was listed as stolen by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The Glock was listed among items stolen during a burglary in Garfield County, Lemke said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Feb 27, 2014 01:24PM Published May 8, 2014 03:11PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.