In Wyoming, it’s a felony to steal a gun.
A man from Etna, Wyoming, is accused of doing just that, and of giving away his gun theft by blowing a hole through his motel wall — right over the head of his sleeping neighbor.
Javier Rafael De La Torre Martinez, who is 54 this year, is charged with one count of felony theft and could face up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted.
He’s set for an Oct. 12 arraignment in Lincoln County District Court.
Shot In The Night
The investigation started in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, when a guest at a motel in Alpine reported a gunshot to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
A shotgun slug went through a picture on the motel wall just above the guest’s sleeping head, then drilled into the ceiling with a flurry of powder, the guest reported.
Lincoln County deputies arrived on scene and confirmed the damage, concluding that it looked like the shot came from room 108, into room 107.
Deputies next talked to Martinez, who admitted he was the only occupant in room 108, according to the affidavit.
He said he got into his room about 30 minutes after midnight that morning, driving a blue Suzuki XL7. But he didn’t have any guns, Martinez reportedly told deputies.
The motel owner confirmed that Martinez was the only room occupant in 108. The man also supplied camera footage from the parking lot, which allegedly depicted Martinez driving the blue Suzuki XL7 to his room, getting out with what appeared to be a long gun, then entering the room alone.
The video captured what sounded like a gunshot, the affidavit says.
After that sound, the video showed Martinez leaving his room with the gun, putting it into his vehicle then returning to his room – still alone, says the document.
Lincoln County Deputy Dana Sanders applied for a search warrant on the vehicle, which Judge Gregory Corpening granted.
The search of Martinez’s vehicle revealed one Mossberg Maverick Model 88 12-gauge shotgun, loaded.
“I suspected that Martinez was restricted from owning a firearm and/or the gun was possibly taken from someone,” wrote Sanders in the affidavit.
But Martinez was not legally restricted from owning a gun.
One On The Desk, One By The Door
The next day, an Alpine man reported two of his guns stolen.
The man, Roy Slebeck, told a deputy that he was missing a stainless .45-caliber Ruger handgun that normally sat on his desk and a black Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun that used to lean by the back door.
He’d left the shotgun loaded, Slebeck said.
“Slebeck then loudly stated he thought he knew who had stolen his shotgun,” says the affidavit.
The man’s name was Javier, but Slebeck couldn’t remember the rest of his name, he told deputies.
“Javier” rented from Slebeck for about a month, but Slebeck had kicked him out since he couldn’t pay the rent. But the tenant knew where the guns were, the affidavit relates from Slebeck’s interview.
The affidavit says Slebeck also revealed that he had a friend who worked at the bullet-hewn motel, and this friend had told Slebeck that “Javier” had gotten into trouble and shot through a wall there.
That made Slebeck “curious” about where the man could have gotten a gun, so he started checking around his house to see if anything was missing, says the affidavit.
This Is Wyoming
A deputy asked Slebeck if he ever locked the doors to his house.
Slebeck said he did not, and that “this was Wyoming and he thought you didn’t have to,” says the affidavit.
The shotgun was a gift from a friend who is now dead, said Slebeck.
As for the Ruger pistol, he bought it at Academy Sports in McAllen, Texas, Slebeck told deputies.
Sanders is in contact with the ATF to perform a reverse serial number lookup for the pistol, the deputy wrote.
But as of Sept. 12 when the affidavit was filed, investigators didn’t know where the pistol was, the document says.
Often prosecutors in Wyoming can only charge theft as a felony if the property stolen was worth more than $1,000. But there are exceptions.
Anyone who steals a gun, horse, mule, sheep, cow, buffalo or pig in Wyoming — regardless of that gun or creature’s value — can be charged as a potential felon.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.