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Arrests follow alleged St. Croix County crime spree

St. Croix County — Two men helped themselves to one classic convertible, a pickup truck, a tank of gas, a sweater and other assorted belongings during a daylong St. Croix County crime spree, according to authorities.

One man was arrested shortly after an interrupted burglary near River Falls on Sept. 27. The search for the second suspect ended with his arrest later that day in Chisago County, Minn.— less than a mile from where a large group of officers was dispersing from a gun range.

"Sometimes we get lucky," Chisago County Sheriff's Office Capt. Keith Hoppe said of the chance encounter. "Sometimes they get unlucky."

St. Croix County prosecutors charged 22-year-old Oakdale, Minn., resident Marcus I. Stout with two counts of burglary, two counts of auto theft and one count of misdemeanor theft. He was held on $5,000 cash bond after a Sept. 28 court hearing.

The second suspect, identified by authorities as Benjamin C. Johnson, a homeless 32-year-old, was being held in Chisago County jail on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle.

A criminal complaint states Stout chronicled the day's events leading up to his arrest in an interview with investigators.

According to the complaint:

Stout was at an Oakdale trailer court when he was approached by a man he knew only as "Bennie" — later identified in the complaint as Johnson — who told Stout "they had work to do" and to get into his car. The order was under threat of violence from Johnson's gang, Stout told authorities.

They left around 7 a.m. in a Chevrolet Lumina and stopped first at the Kwik Trip in Baldwin, where Stout said Johnson swiped a sweater from a semi-trailer cab. The men proceeded to a nearby Freedom gas station and drove off without paying for $50 in gas.

Johnson then had the idea to steal a pickup, Stout said. They found a pickup in the town of Kinnickinnic, which Johnson drove off, according to Stout's account.

After tooling around the township in the two vehicles, the men stopped at 1475 Evergreen Drive, where Stout said they stole items from a shed — some of which they loaded into a 1965 Ford Galaxie parked at the home.

The men left in the convertible and the Lumina, but temporarily ditched the convertible in a field driveway so they could ride together back to where the pickup was parked at the Evergreen Drive house. After parking the pickup where the convertible had been, they again hit the road until Johnson signaled Stout to stop at 311 County Road JJ.

Stout said they parked near a barn at the property and went inside. After coming out with armfuls of belongings, they encountered two residents.

The residents got into a car and followed the Lumina Stout was driving, but lost track of the convertible. Authorities received a detailed description of the convertible, including a custom paint job on its rims.

Stout was arrested during a traffic stop by Roberts Police Chief Aaron McWilliams.

Minnesota arrests

The convertible remained on the loose until 8:15 p.m. that night when a Chisago County deputy stopped a vehicle that was driving erratically in Harris, Minn.

Hoppe said the car — a red Ford Galaxie — stopped in a driveway and two men bolted from the car, while a woman remained inside.

The deputy radioed the call to other officers, many of whom were about a half-mile away wrapping up department gun-range training.

Those officers quickly formed a perimeter of the area and deployed K-9 units that had also been at the range, Hoppe said. Johnson was found quickly, he said, though it took help from a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter and an extensive search to locate the second man—identified as 45-year-old Wyoming, Minn., resident Larry R. Kiefat Jr.—who was eventually found hiding under a boat.

The woman in the car, Ham Lake, Minn., resident Jaclyn A. Koemptgen, was arrested on suspicion of drug possession.

The St. Croix County criminal complaint states that Johnson denied involvement in the town of Kinnickinnic crimes. Johnson, described by an investigator as "aloof" during an interview, delivered a long stare after being asked how he knows Stout.

"As he glared at me, he growled 'Never heard of him,'" the investigator wrote in the complaint.

St. Croix County Sheriff's Office Special Services Division Lt. Cathy Borgschatz said last week the investigation was in its "early stages."

"We believe they're involved in other criminal activity in Wisconsin and Minnesota," Borgschatz said.

Stout appeared in court again Oct. 5 for a preliminary hearing.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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