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Top crime stories of 2018

TOP: Elko firefighters spray water on a vehicle on Dotta Drive that was believed to have been used in a robbery at Dotty’s Casino, then set ablaze by the robbers, in March. MIDDLE: A still from surveillance video of the Dotty’s Casino robbery; former Wells teacher Tennille Whitaker speaks at her sentencing hearing in October after pleading no contest to having sex with high school boys. BOTTOM: A lot on the east side of Carlin is searched in November after human remains were found buried in the dirt; this photo of Jose Gomez was provided when he went missing in August 2014. His remains were found outside the city limits in July.

ELKO — Law enforcement agencies made more drug arrests in 2018 and dealt with other crimes such as robbery and gun violence.

The Elko Combined Narcotics Unit nearly doubled its number of arrests over the previous year, increasing from 71 to 124.

The investigative unit seized more than $1.36 million worth of narcotics between Oct. 1, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2018.

Drugs remained a factor behind many but not all crimes. Here is a rundown of the top 10 local crime stories based on readership at elkodaily.com:

Deadly domestic

A domestic dispute turned deadly on the night of Jan. 11 at a home in Spring Creek when a man reportedly shot his wife and was then shot by law enforcement officers.

Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts said deputies were called to the home on Spring Creek Parkway at about 8:45 p.m. Pitts said the wife’s sister let officers in the house, and they heard arguing in a bedroom.

When officers opened the door, the husband shot the wife and officers shot the husband, identified as Jared S.R. Williams, 31.

Karen Williams, 33, was estranged from her husband and had recently moved into the home, according to Pitts.

The couple had three children together. They and a fourth from the wife’s previous marriage were in the home at the time of the incident, and were placed in the care of their aunt.

Home invasion gun battle

A home invasion on the outskirts of Elko turned deadly on the night of July 7 when a gun battle ensued between a resident and three intruders.

Homeowner Bradley Smith, 33, was shot several times and died after being taken to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, according to Pitts.

The sheriff said three men were apparently trying to break into a home on Wrangler Circle at about 11:30 p.m. when a gun battle broke out between the intruders and the resident. He did not know who fired first.

“They kicked in the front door,” Pitts said. “And then that’s when the gun battle took place inside the house.”

Alan J. Honeyestewa, 24, of Elko sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was later found at a residence on Wongobi Street in the Upper Elko Indian Colony. He was arrested by police after receiving medical treatment.

Tieres A. Lopez Sr., 23, of Elko was booked in Elko County Jail without bail on charges of first-degree murder, robbery and attempted home invasion.

A third suspect remains at large.

Robbery at Dotty’s Casino

In March, police tracked down two suspects who are believed to have robbed a Dotty’s Casino on Mountain City Highway after spraying employees and patrons with what might have been bear repellant.

The suspects entered the casino in the Smith’s shopping center at about 6:50 a.m. March 2 and “used a chemical agent, possibly bear mace, to disable the employees and patrons, and got away with an undisclosed amount of money,” said Lt. Mike Palhegyi of the Elko Police Department.

A few minutes after they fled the casino in a vehicle, police and firefighters were called to Dotta Drive on a report of a car fire. The robbers are believed to have set fire to the vehicle to conceal evidence, possibly fleeing from there in another vehicle.

Police released images from surveillance video and eventually two men were arrested: James B. Squires, 33, of Elko and Tony A. Pressler, 36, of Spring Creek.

Teen robbed at softball field

A 15-year-old who accepted a ride on Court Street on Nov. 8 ended up being robbed at a nearby softball field, according to Elko police.

The teen accepted a ride from possible acquaintances in a vehicle containing three people. He was taken to a nearby softball field off Cedar Street where he was beaten. Items including clothing, keys and a cellphone were taken from the victim.

Two local men were later arrested on charges of kidnapping and robbery. Angel Arellano, 18, was later arrested on charges of first-degree kidnapping, robbery, child abuse or neglect, and possessing stolen property.

Christiphor D. Key, 20, was arrested on charges of first-degree kidnapping, robbery, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, child abuse or neglect, felony possession of a controlled substance, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, and possessing stolen property.

Their bail topped $300,000 each.

Human remains found in Carlin

In November, workers preparing a vacant lot for a home site in Carlin encountered human remains, bringing the project to a halt and prompting an extensive search of the possible crime scene.

The discovery was reported Nov. 11 at a lot on 15th Street. Carlin police called in the Elko County Sheriff’s Office for assistance after the homeowner reported the discovery by workers hired to level the property on the east side of town. They had been bulldozing dirt and hauling it from one side of the uneven lot to the other when they noticed bones they suspected to be human.

Elko County Deputy Coroner Nick Czegledi estimated the bones had been buried three to five years.

While it is possible the remains could be from a homeless person who died near the tracks, officials were trying to determine if foul play was involved.

Remains of missing man found

The skeletal remains of an Elko man who went missing four years ago were found in July, and homicide is suspected.

Jose Antonio Gomez was 38 when he was reported missing from the south side of town on Aug. 5, 2014.

Remains were found July 15 in an unincorporated part of the county not far from town, and DNA testing has confirmed the identity as Gomez.

Gomez was reportedly last seen on the morning of Aug. 4. He had been helping his girlfriend to move the night before. The couple spoke that evening and planned to meet again Monday after work but he never showed up.

Police at the time of his disappearance reported his vehicle was not missing and there were no signs of foul play. They followed a number of leads but were unable to locate him.

The missing-person case is now being handled as a homicide, with the cooperation of state and federal agencies.

Gunshots in grocery store parking lot

ELKO – Gunfire erupted in the Smith’s grocery parking lot on Sept. 13 and a Utah woman was taken to jail.

Police said a man and a woman were driving in the lot while on their way home to Park City when “some sort of dispute” ensued between them. Barbara R. Theis, 54, got out of the pickup and allegedly fired three shots with a .38-caliber revolver. Then she allegedly pointed the weapon at a vehicle occupied by two women.

When police arrived they found Theis hiding under a blanket in the back seat of a pickup parked by the Smith’s gas station. She was arrested on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and for resisting a public officer.

She was not armed, so officers searched for the revolver and found it behind a bush beside the gas station. It still contained two unfired rounds.

Other top crime stories

Not all of the crime stories from 2018 involved guns or deaths.

In October, a former Wells elementary school teacher was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for having sex with high school boys.

Tennille Whitaker, 41, was sentenced by Elko District Judge Nancy Porter after pleading no contest in the case.

Parents of two of the four victims read impact statements to the court, describing how the events changed the lives of their sons, their families and the overall community of Wells.

“I’ve spent a year wishing that I could ask for forgiveness and say, ‘I’m sorry’ to these people, because I am truly sorry,” Whitaker said, turning to speak to the courtroom observers. “I’m not proud of what I did. I am ashamed and I will be ashamed forever,” she continued. “I am truly sorry for betraying the trust of the parents and the victims.”

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In July, a local barista was arrested on theft charges after two friends said they gave her more than $50,000 for a stake in the coffee and ice cream shop where she worked.

A complaint filed in Elko Justice Court charged Ermelinda Carrillo, 28, with felony theft by misrepresentation for claiming she owned Cool Beans and offering to sell half ownership.

The alleged victims, who were neighbors and had given Carrillo money in the past, told police they gave her $52,700 that they had been saving for their children’s education in March 2017 but never received paperwork for ownership in the business. Meanwhile, they “noticed numerous new cars at Carillo’s residence, which she claims to own.”

After six months they decided to approach Cool Beans owner April Dullum, who told them Carrillo did not own any part of the business.

Under questioning, Carrillo told police that the couple had given her money to help her buy the shop. She was later booked on $21,140 bail.

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In May, a babysitter was arrested after the baby she had been watching was taken to the hospital with symptoms of drug use.

The 9-month-old’s mother took the child to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital shortly after midnight because of “unusual symptoms.” The baby tested positive for drugs including opiates, police said.

The babysitter was then found smoking heroin in the hospital’s parking lot, according to police.

Stacey Lupercio, 27, of Elko was arrested on charges of child abuse or neglect, and three counts of drug paraphernalia.

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