Counterfeit money leads to burglary suspect

Police arrest man in Farmington wanted in Lemon Reservoir crime

One of two men suspected of burglarizing a La Plata County family’s home that exploded earlier this year has been arrested in Farmington.

Eric Bernard, 31, of Aztec, was picked up July 9 during a traffic stop by the Farmington Police Department, said Joe Farmer, an investigator for the Durango Police Department.

Bernard and Jerry Anthony Spinnichia, 32, are suspected of stealing a 27-foot trailer carrying a snowmobile, an all-terrain vehicle, tools, a log splitter, a riding lawn mower, tables and chairs.

The items belonged to Tim and Karen Kelley, whose house exploded Feb. 21 north of Lemon Reservoir. The Kelleys and their 9-year-old daughter, Cameron, were inside the home at the time of the blast. All three suffered serious injuries.

Police identified three theft suspects in a roundabout way: On June 13, a day after the burglary, a man and a woman passed a counterfeit $100 bill at the Sonic drive-thru in Durango. Employees obtained a license plate number and called police.

The next day, investigators were able to identify the suspects as Ashley Moore, 21, of Durango, and Darin Scott, 32, of Farmington.

While making an arrest, police found checks in Moore’s possession that belonged to the Kelley family, Farmer said. During interviews with police, Moore identified Spinnichia and Bernard as having been involved with the burglary at the Kelley home.

“Something as simple as a counterfeit $100 bill being passed led to all of this,” Farmer said.

Moore, Bernard and Spinnichia are suspected of stealing the trailer from the Kelley’s home, Farmer said.

The threesome committed the burglary after benefiting from Tim Kelley’s generosity during the winter of 2010-2011, Farmer said.

Moore and Spinnichia were snowmobiling north of Lemon Reservoir when they had a flat tire on their trailer, he said. Tim Kelley helped the couple repair the flat tire at his house. While there, Moore and Spinnichia took note of his personal belongings, Farmer said. They learned the house exploded this year and went to see what remained, Farmer said.

“That’s basically like looting,” he said.

Friends of the Kelley family packed the trailer with valuable possessions that survived the propane explosion, Farmer said. The trailer was sitting on the family’s property near the home that was leveled in the blast.

The trailer and stolen goods, as well as other stolen items from around the region, were located at a home north of Aztec.

Spinnichia is the only suspect who remains at large. He is described as 6-foot, 1-inch tall, 195 pounds with brown hair and green eyes. He has a nationwide extradition warrant on suspicion of felony theft and violation of parole.

“He’s still out there somewhere,” Farmer said.

The Durango Police Department is investigating the case after becoming involved through the counterfeit $100 bill, Farmer said. The investigation involves multiple agencies, he said.

Anyone with information on Spinnichia’s whereabouts or about the theft is asked to call Farmer at 375-4732 or Crimestoppers at 247-1112.

shane@durangoherald.com

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