Police bust two in car thefts

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the circumstances regarding witnesses who had knowledge of a stolen Dodge truck and were involved in returning it to the owner. Also, Alaska State Trooper Jake Blessent was the investigating officer in the East End Road burglaries.

Homer Police this week arrested two men related to a Homer crime spree Aug. 21-27 involving stolen cars, stolen guns, East End Road burglaries, and numerous petty thefts from vehicles in downtown and on the Homer Spit.

Travis K. Catron, 25, and Niko E. Mogar, 27, were arraigned in Homer Court on Tuesday and on a new set of charges on Wednesday. Mogar was released on a $1,000 cash performance bond, but Catron had his bail revoked on a July auto theft charge in Kenai and remains at Wildwood Pretrial Facility there.

Homer Police and Alaska State Troopers investigated the cases and worked together to serve search warrants. Police also have recovered electronics believed to be stolen but haven’t been claimed. Homer Police Lt. Ryan Browning said anyone who suspects they had items stolen over the weekend should call Homer Police at 235-3150.

Mogar faces charges of first-degree vehicle theft, three counts of first-degree burglary, two counts of second-degree theft, all felonies, and a count of third-degree theft.

Catron is a co-defendant with Mogar on the vehicle theft, burglary and other theft charges, and faces additional charges for another vehicle theft, two counts of second-degree theft, two counts of second-degree criminal trespassing and two counts of fourth-degree theft. In the second-degree theft charges, he’s alleged to have stolen guns from a truck on the Spit and baby clothes, diapers and a baby seat when Homer Police said he stole a 2012 Toyota Prius from the Spit.

In charging documents, police said Catron stole money, prescription drugs, and guns from vehicles on the Spit, and rummaged through cars in the Soundview Avenue, Spruceview Avenue and Forest Glen Drive area. In one instance, police said Catron stole specialty German chocolate from the SUV of Sarah Vance, a Republican Party candidate for the District 31 Alaska House of Representatives seat.

Vance leads in the primary with 1,214 votes to John Cox’s 1,120 votes. Vance has been critical of Senate Bill 91, a criminal reform bill that she calls “soft on crime.” On her Facebook campaign page, Vance posted a video of herself at the Homer Court on Tuesday talking about the case.

Browning said police believe Catron’s crime spree ran from downtown Homer to the Spit sometime on the night of Sunday, Aug. 26, and early Monday, Aug. 27.

Police pulled together the threads on the cases after stopping Catron for speeding Monday morning on the Spit near the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. Officer Jim Knott found Catron driving a 2012 Toyota Prius that had been reported stolen about an hour earlier by its owner, Cassiar O’Neill, who lives on the Spit.

“That’s how it started,” said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl. “We were out looking for that car, and lo and behold, it drives by the officer.”

O’Neill said she was on the phone with police when she and her parents saw the stolen Prius go by their home. Her parents got in a car and chased the Prius and caught up with it when they saw police had pulled it over.

According to the criminal complaint written by Knott, police found a Colt handgun inside the waistband of Catron’s pants and a rifle in the car. Missing were items belonging to O’Neill and her three children.

“But he left me a turkey sandwich, an energy drink and a Dr. Pepper,” O’Neill said. “I guess I should be grateful. I’ve got lunch.”

Knott and Lt. Ryan Browning later interviewed Catron and said he admitted stealing items from cars in the Soundview and Forest Glen neighborhood.

Police had earlier identified Catron and Mogar as suspects in the theft of a Dodge Ram pickup theft on Aug. 21 from a Hidden Way home near Bishop’s Beach. On Aug. 25, the victim recovered the truck after a woman contacted her saying she had the truck and wanted to return it at the Safeway parking lot. The victim phoned police and HPD Sgt. Larry Baxter met her and the other woman at Safeway. The woman who was returning the vehicle told Baxter a man she did not want to identify gave her the truck to return after learning on social media it had been stolen.

She later said a man named Travis had taken the car. A plate on the truck, JHJ 573, was registered to Mogar’s 1999 Chevrolet truck. Baxter asked the woman to tell her friend to call him. The man never did call police.

However, another man who had knowledge of the case later spoke with Baxter on Aug. 26 and said Mogar had parked a truck on his East End Road property about Aug. 23. Mogar told the man it belonged to a friend. The man told Baxter he looked inside and saw a name on a document that Baxter wrote was the same as the victim. The truck had the JHJ 573 plate.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, police stopped Mogar near Mile 172 Sterling Highway and arrested him for the truck theft. Baxter interviewed Mogar and he said he had no idea how the truck got on the East End Road property.

“He said he’d been sleeping and it just basically showed up,” Baxter wrote.

After arresting Catron for the theft of the Prius, police interviewed him. According to criminal complaints by Trooper Sgt. Daniel Cox, Catron gave police information about three burglaries that happened on Aug. 24 on Sisbon Drive, Aug. 26 on Zulu Court and Aug. 26 on East End Road. Items taken included firearms, computers, jewelry, $1,300 in cash and electronics. One laptop stolen belonged to Voznesenka School. Homer Police got a search warrant for Mogar’s home on Kaleen Court near East End Road. His home is near the Sisbon Drive and Zulu Court homes. Troopers helped police serve the warrant and recovered many of the stolen items, including the school computer.

In the complaint, Cox said Trooper Jake Blessent interviewed a relative of Mogar. That man told Blessent that Mogar used drugs heavily and is involved in vehicle thefts. Blessent interviewed Catron after serving the warrants. He said Catron told him he had been high on heroin and methamphetamine during the crime spree, and that Mogar gave him drugs for helping with the thefts.

Blessent interviewed Mogar, but he denied any involvement in burglaries or being aware of stolen property.

Browning said Catron told him he dumped many of the stolen items in thrift store donation bins. Police recovered many of the stolen items, including the child seat and other items stolen from O’Neill’s Prius. Police also recovered a pink bag with medical equipment a midwife reported stolen over the weekend, but that Catron denied taking.

Catron also was charged on July 14 for a theft of a 2007 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck from a 2nd Street home in Kenai. Policegot a report that the truck was at the Chevron gas station in Kenai. Police stopped the truck and found Catron driving it with two women. In new charges, Catron is accused of violating conditions of release that he not commit a crime while on release from the July incident.

Mogar also faces a charge of unlawful contact after being told at their arraignment not to communicate further with Catron. Police alleged Mogar yelled at Catron while they were both at the Homer Jail on Tuesday afternoon. “You’re f—-ing dead,” Browning wrote Mogar said to Catron, according to the affidavit.

According to the criminal complaint on one second-degree theft charge, Catron has prior convictions for theft. For the alleged theft of items in the Prius, he was charged under a section of Alaska law which makes the theft a felony if the defendant has prior theft convictions, even if the property value is less than $500. In a 2014 theft case, Catron stole a longboard-style skateboard from a a 13-year-old boy at the Homer Public Library.

In all the vehicle theft cases, the cars or trucks had been left unlocked and the keys left in them. O’Neill said she had dropped the keys to the Prius down into a center console. In a Prius, the car starts with the push of a button as long as the key fob is in the car. She said she couldn’t lock her car because the key was still in the Prius and it was too dark to find it.

“I wasn’t really thinking ‘my car is going to be stolen tonight,’” O’Neill said.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.