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2 arrested in Isabella crime spree

The discovery of a few DVDs led the Lake County Sheriff's Office in July to arrest a couple allegedly responsible for a rash of burglaries in the Isabella area.

According to the criminal complaints, Christopher Alexander Gutierrez, 34, of Hacienda Heights, Calif., and Shelby Anne Vernell, 34, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., were arrested July 18 after Deputy Ben Goutermont responded to a report of suspicious activity at a cabin on Jensen Trail in Isabella the day before. He saw the deadbolt on the cabin door had been damaged, but the cabin owner did not believe anything was missing.

The deputy found Vernell at a neighboring cabin, where she told Goutermont she and Gutierrez were staying there and it belonged to a relative, though she could not provide the relative's name. Goutermont also observed a stack of DVDs in the cabin, but the cabin did not appear to have electricity.

The following day, Goutermont again spoke with the cabin owner, who said they had since found 12 DVDs missing from the cabin, including "Harry and the Hendersons," "Bottle Shock" and "A River Runs Through It." Goutermont was granted a search warrant for the neighboring cabin, where he found approximately 20 DVDs, including all three titles named by the cabin owner.

Goutermont then arrested Vernell and Gutierrez, who had an active warrant in Colorado.

Goutermont and Deputy Dave Pirsig continued July 22 to investigate the burglaries. They were informed there was a couple camping at the Isabella Environmental Learning Center, a precursor to the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland.

After arriving at the now-vacant Isabella ELC, Pirsig and Goutermont discovered a Ford Escape SUV with no license plates and a covered vehicle identification number. It was later discovered to be stolen from Rifle, Colo.

According to the complaint, Pirsig and Goutermont saw "in plain sight" several items they believed to be from burglaries they were investigating. After executing the warrant, the deputies found a Remington Speedmaster Model 552 rifle with .22 caliber ammunition, a trolling motor, chainsaw, gas-powered generator and several other items that matched a list of missing items.

Gutierrez is charged with felony second-degree burglary, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $20,000 fine, and misdemeanor theft.

Vernell is charged with felony theft of a firearm, which has a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $100,000 fine, felony second-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft.

Assistant Lake County Attorney Lara Nygaard said the investigation is ongoing and there will be more charges in the coming weeks.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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