CLEARLAKE, Calif. – The efforts of determined county landfill employees led on Wednesday to the arrest of a Clearlake man on allegations that he stole property from the landfill and tampered with a county vehicle.
David Palmer Jepson, 34, was arrested on Wednesday morning, according to Sgt. Rodd Joseph of the Clearlake Police Department.
Still wanted in connection to the case is 66-year-old Clearlake resident Robert Crince, Joseph said.
Eastlake Landfill Supervisor Kris Byrd told Lake County News that for the last three to four months, the landfill's recycling center on Davis Avenue has been burglarized repeatedly.
He said the suspects took aluminum cans, plastic bottles, batteries, electronics and, recently, three of the walls off the center's swamp cooler.
Landfill employees have been investigating the thefts but haven't come up with any leads, Byrd said.
That is, until earlier this week.
Sometime on Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, the suspects cut through the recycling center fence, drove in on a Rascal scooter with a trailer on it, siphoned about 100 gallons of fuel from a water truck and stole the truck's four batteries, Byrd said.
Byrd said the thieves left some noticeable clues thanks to the area's dirt roads.
On Wednesday morning, Byrd and two landfill staffers, Ben Noble and Kevin Perry, followed the scooter's tracks along the dirt roads, with the tracks leading to a house where they located Jepson.
“It was great,” Byrd said.
At about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday Clearlake Police officers responded to the 16100 block of 35th Avenue on a report of a theft at the landfill and recycling center, Joseph said.
Officers arrived at the address and met with Byrd and his staff, who related that they had followed tire tracks to the address and found a small scooter and trailer, as well as several full gas cans adjacent to the scooter containing red dye diesel fuel, which the landfill reported had been stolen, according to Joseph.
At the residence they found Jepson, who Byrd said confessed to stealing the materials and told them that Crince had been an accomplice.
Joseph said the investigation led officers to an address in the 16200 block of 27th Avenue where additional stolen property was located.
Some of the stolen property located was from the Tuesday night burglary as well as from several burglaries and thefts at the recycling center over the past several months, Joseph said.
Byrd said they found the swamp cooler parts, batteries and stolen computer parts at the second location.
While they were there, one of Byrd's employees pointed out that the home's electrical panel had jumper cables attached to it. A further look revealed a makeshift connection to a nearby power pole. He said the hookup was used to steal electricity.
There also were about 28 sick cats found at the home that were confiscated by animal control officials, Byrd said.
“It ended up being a pretty big bust,” he said.
Joseph said not all of the property stolen from the landfill has been located, but during the course of the investigation officers identified Crince as another person of interest in the series of thefts and burglaries.
At that second house, Byrd said officials spoke to a woman who had Crince's phone number. When they attempted to call him, he claimed to be on a bus to a VA medical facility in Santa Rosa, although an eyewitness saw him that day in Clearlake.
Joseph confirmed that Jepson admitted to being involved in the theft at the landfill on Tuesday night, and he was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property, tampering with a vehicle petty theft, conspiracy and two outstanding arrest warrants.
Jepson was booked into the Lake County Jail, with bail set at $50,000. He remained in custody on early Friday; he's also scheduled to appear in court on Friday, according to his booking sheet.
Joseph said officers are trying to locate Crince, whose whereabouts weren't known on Thursday.
He said the case is being forwarded to the Lake County District Attorney’s Office for charges.
Byrd credited his staff for doing good work and helping track down the suspects.
“Patience was a virtue for us for sure,” he said.
Joseph said anyone with information on this case is asked to contact Officer Michael Carpenter at 707-994-8251.
Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.