By Ryan Lewallen, County 17
Two suspects have been arrested during a felony investigation into a series of stolen vehicles, at least one of which was set on fire, according to affidavits of probable cause filed in the case.
Gillette authorities have charged Austin Anderson, 26, and Cody Allard, 21, with felony third-degree arson after they allegedly lit at least one of five pickups stolen from several Wyoming communities on fire, court documents state.
As of Jan. 19, Anderson also faces two felony theft charges stemming from a Dec. 31 incident where he reportedly took a 2006 Chevrolet from a residence on East Laramie Street, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed on Jan. 15 in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial District, as well as a 2011 Dodge pickup from the 3500 block of Foothills Boulevard.
The Chevrolet, valued at $5,000, was taken between 4:30 and 6:50 a.m. and was found later that morning near Barlow Road, fully engulfed in flames. The Dodge, valued at $23,000, was reported stolen five hours later and was found Jan. 1 near Hartville, Wyoming. It, too, had reportedly been set on fire and was badly burned.
Affidavits further state that Allard and Anderson had allegedly been “car hopping” early Dec. 31 when the pair reportedly entered, started, and took the Chevrolet. After driving around Gillette for a short time, Anderson reportedly perpetuated a plan to steal another vehicle to get rid of the Chevrolet because he could have been spotted near the stolen pickup and lives near the address from which it was taken.
Anderson allegedly identified the Dodge pickup as a work vehicle, reasoning that the keys would be left inside. Allard reportedly could not operate the Dodge’s manual transmission, prompting Anderson to hand the Chevrolet off to him and drive the Dodge instead, court documents state.
The pair left the area soon after and travelled onto Wild Horse Creek Road, where they were seen by a county employee performing maintenance on the road.
The employee reported that several tools and belongings were taken shortly thereafter from his work pickup that had been parked and unlocked on the side of the road, according to a Campbell County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Both suspects told investigators that the other soaked the Chevrolet in lighter fluid and lit it on fire, though Anderson admitted to being the one concerned about biological evidence left behind in the Chevrolet, according to court documents.
After the Chevrolet was abandoned in flames, the pair allegedly fled to Wheatland in the Dodge where they stole an unidentified vehicle, court documents state, before driving on to Guernsey and stealing another Chevrolet pickup.
The pair reportedly split up in Newcastle, with Allard driving back to Gillette in the stolen Chevrolet. Allard was arrested by Moorcroft Police for driving the stolen pickup, and several items that had been reported stolen from the work truck on Wild Horse Creek Road were also recovered, per the affidavit.
Anderson reportedly burned the Dodge before stealing another unidentified vehicle from a residence in Newcastle on Jan. 1, where he became armed with a firearm, according to Weston County Sheriff Bryan Colvard.
Weston County deputies were tipped off to Anderson’s location at the county fairgrounds, where he allegedly lost control of the vehicle and crashed it into a fairground building, causing upwards of $10,000 in damage, Colvard said.
When Weston County deputies arrived, they observed Anderson fleeing the area on foot through a pasture and, following a short foot-pursuit, managed to take him into custody, Colvard said.
In addition to charges stemming in Campbell County, Anderson has been charged in Weston County for felony aggravated burglary, felony theft, and felony destruction of property.
He was also charged with misdemeanor eluding for fleeing from Weston County deputies, Colvard said.
If he is convicted, Anderson could face up to 10 years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both, for each count of felony theft, felony burglary, and felony destruction of property.
Additionally, both men could face upon conviction up to five years imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, or both, for felony arson that damaged property worth more than $200.
Campbell County Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds advised Wednesday morning, Jan. 20, that the investigation into these incidents is currently ongoing across multiple Wyoming law enforcement agencies.