By Michael Howell
Two juveniles were taken into custody on Thursday, May 19, in connection with a vandalism spree that occurred in the wee hours of the morning in Hamilton on Wednesday, May 18 and may have continued that Wednesday night in Corvallis. The Corvallis teens arrested in the case are 16-year-old Harley Edelbach and 17-year-old Isaiah Bartlett. No formal charges had yet been filed in the case on Monday, according to Deputy County Attorney Angela Wetzsteon. The investigation is ongoing and, according to Lieutenant Steve Snavely of the Hamilton Police Department, a third person who is an adult may soon be arrested.
Authorities first became involved in investigating the vandalism spree after responding to a fire at 5:28 Wednesday morning in the alley of the 500 block of South Fourth Street in Hamilton. By the next day police had received about 33 complaints, including the suspected arson. The acts included dousing automobiles with beige colored paint – which turned out, according to Snavely, to be stolen from the Saint Francis Catholic Church on 5th Street – and painting commercial buildings, residences and the Hamilton Middle School with blue and white colored graffiti using vulgar language as well as several Stars of David.
A break in the case came when Ravalli County Sheriff’s Officers responded to vandalism committed in Corvallis on Wednesday night and found evidence leading to the juveniles now in custody. One of the juveniles used a credit card stolen during the Corvallis escapade at a Hamilton business on Thursday, adding one more piece to the puzzle that led to the arrests.
Police and Sheriff’s officers are still collecting evidence and pursuing leads that may implicate others in the activity. Anyone who has discovered damage to a vehicle or other property is urged to call the Hamilton Police Department at 363-2100 and report it.
In Stevensville, police have made an arrest in a string of thefts from automobiles in town. Stevensville Police Chief James Marble said that his office received six reports of theft from automobiles in the downtown area, two along Buck Street, one on Mission Street, one on 6th Street and two on Church Street.
Two juveniles have been arrested in the case. From the initial results of the investigation, according to Police Officer Mike Sunderland, it appears that more vehicles may have been robbed than have been reported. He said the juveniles had admitted to entering from 25 to 30 vehicles. He said the thefts occurred all over town, not just in one part of town. The Stevensville Police Department is asking anyone who believes their vehicle may have been robbed to call the office at 777-3011.
In a separate incident, a man has been arrested for breaking into the Valley Drug and Variety Liquor Store located in the Kohl Building by breaking a window. Marble said that there have been a few other windows broken in town recently, one at Bob’s Auto Body and the other at the Burger Shack.