Business owners impacted by last year's spate of commercial burglaries in Taos County gathered in Taos District Court Friday (March 1) to catch a glimpse of the man police say is responsible …
Business owners impacted by last year's spate of commercial burglaries in Taos County gathered in Taos District Court Friday (March 1) to catch a glimpse of the man police say is responsible for their troubles – and to celebrate the decision that will keep him in jail until trial.
Judge Jeff McElroy listened as state prosecutor Steven Romero and defense attorney James Mamalis argued over evidence that suggests Carl Ervin Gage, an Alaska man, burglarized six businesses in Taos last year.
A grand jury indicted Gage on 15 counts on Thursday (March 1), including five counts of commercial burglary, all fourth-degree felonies; one count of attempted commercial burglary, a misdemeanor; three felony counts of larceny; one petty misdemeanor count of larceny; and five counts of criminal damage to property, all petty misdemeanors.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said on Friday that another burglary case his office filed against Gage related to a break-in at Bailey's Chimney would also go before a grand jury later this month.
Surveillance video captured at Popolo's game store, the northside Blake's Lota Burger in Taos, KOKO's Cafe and Deli and Southwest Wellness Center formed the basis for the initial investigation by Taos Police.
Some of the footage provided clear images of the suspect – his partially masked face, the clothing he wore and the pry bar tools he appeared to favor when breaching a back or side door at a business.
Surveillance equipment installed at KOKO's, which was burglarized twice, captured audio that suggested the suspect had communicated with an accomplice via a cell phone during some of the break-ins, but police have not yet identified a second suspect.
Taos Police Detective John Wentz testified at Friday's hearing that two anonymous tipsters and a Taos County woman who said she had known Gage for years positively identified the Alaska man as the suspect seen in surveillance photos.
Wentz also obtained a search warrant for records from area cell phone providers. He later obtained Gage's cell phone number and said it had been in contact with cell phone towers in the same times and places where the burglaries occurred.
In the Bailey's Chimney case, investigators found a pry bar that had been left behind at the crime scene and sent it to the New Mexico Public Safety Crime Lab for testing. It came back with a result for "Carl Ervin Gage," according to filings in district court.
Romero also noted that Gage has a history of felony burglary cases, including a 2013 case filed in Fairbanks, Alaska, a case for which Gage was granted parole and then absconded.
He also has a record in California. Reviewing Gage's cases, Romero said the 45-year-old had shown "a pattern of refusal to comply with the direction of the courts."
Mamalis countered that Gage would not pose a danger to the community if released – that the charges filed are not violent in nature. He said Gage had ties to the community: a daughter and a job as a chef at a local restaurant.
Taos District Court Judge McElroy agreed that the evidence in the case and the defendant's criminal history were significant enough to warrant pre-trial detention.
"The similarities in the crimes are striking," he said. "Those similarities would lead one to conclude that there is a good likelihood they could have been done by the same person."
"The court notes a history of multi-state offenses, similar criminal offenses going back some years, and that would indicate that the likelihood of new crimes being committed is high, whether that be in this jurisdiction or in some other jurisdiction that he might flee to," McElroy said.
Future court dates in the case had not been set as of Friday afternoon.
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