Authorities arrest three in car fire |

Authorities arrest three in car fire

One hour after black smoke curled out of a vacant field, three suspects were arrested on suspicion of burglary, felony vandalism and stealing a vehicle.

At around 4 p.m. on Aug. 19, the Truckee Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire in a field off Deerfield Drive.

Firefighters quickly put out the fire that destroyed a 2002 Dodge Dakota pick-up truck, which police learned had been stolen earlier from a residence in Tahoe Donner.

The fire, though, was the climax in a series of events that led to the arrest of Richard Romm, 22, Robert Romm, 18, and Jesse Bates, 18.

The suspects told police they are transients, but officers say they were able to tie Bates to the Truckee area.

Shortly after the fire, Truckee Police Department, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol officers apprehended the three suspects whose descriptions matched those given to officers earlier in the day.

They were taken into custody and charged with felony vandalism and burglary. Robert Romm and Bates are also charged with vehicle theft.

Police suspect the three vandalized a house on Skiview Loop in Tahoe Donner on the night of Aug. 18, causing an estimated $30,000 in damage.

Police reports say the damage included furniture thrown out the windows, broken banisters inside and outside the house, furniture dropped from the deck to the ground 20 feet below, words carved on the top of a grand piano and holes in the drywall, said Commander Scott Berry of the police department.

So far there is not enough evidence to charge the three suspects with arson, Berry said.

Investigators said the fire may have been started by the truck’s catalytic converter, and the fire flared up because it had been parked in the dry grass and brush.

“It’s an assumption on our part,” Berry said. “We have no point of origin on the fire yet.”

Thursday afternoon police were dispatched to Skiview Loop in Tahoe Donner where witness told police they saw three men, who were possibly intoxicated, walking down the street.

They also told police that they believed the three men had burglarized a house the night before on the same street.

Officers began searching the area, but weren’t able to find the men matching the descriptions.

Another witness on Chalet Road flagged down an animal control officer and told him that his Dodge pick-up had just been stolen. The description of the suspects who had stolen the vehicle matched the burglary suspects, Berry said.

Shortly after the fire on Deerfield Drive was put out, officers matched the vehicle to the one stolen earlier in the day.

“We heard an explosion and we turned around and this thing was on fire,” area resident Eric Wells said, pointing to the flaming truck.

“It was totally engulfed within a couple of minutes,” Wells said.

Wells said he saw two “kids” walk away from the scene and get picked up by someone else.

Residents stood by the fire and watched as it was put out by firefighters.

At an arraignment on Monday, the three suspects plead not guilty and will be in court again on Oct. 1 at 8:30 a.m. for a felony conference. A preliminary examination has been set for Oct. 8 at 1:30 p.m.

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