Charges made in robbery
Two 18-year-old men accused of robbing the Johnson Lane General Store and Wendy’s restaurant have been charged with nine felonies. A juvenile allegedly involved may be certified as an adult.
Wesley Lee LaPorte of the Johnson Lane area and Daniel Lloyd Hellwinkel of the Gardnerville Ranchos each face charges of robbery, robbery with a deadly weapon, burglary, burglary with a deadly firearm, false imprisonment, false imprisonment with a firearm, battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of grand larceny, all felonies. Both remain in custody, with bail set at $250,000.
Investigators also arrested Justin Reid, 17, of the Ranchos in connection with the crimes. He remains in juvenile detention, awaiting formal charges.
LaPorte and Hellwinkel allegedly robbed the Johnson Lane General Store Feb. 11 and Wendy’s March 6. In both crimes, they dressed in dark, concealing clothing and hid outside the businesses late at night. When an employee exited, they forced their way inside. Handguns were reportedly used at both crimes.
They allegedly tied up the Johnson Lane General Store’s employee with duct tape and took money from the safe. At Wendy’s, they allegedly waited until one employee was taking out the trash. One suspect hit the employee in the arm with an aluminum baseball bat. The employee fell down as a result of the blow, and the suspects entered the restaurant. Inside, one suspect shattered an office window with a bat, scaring the employees, and the two robbers forced them into a walk-in cooler. They took money from the cash register.
According to the sheriff’s office, they took about $1,300 from the Johnson Lane General Store and about $3,000 from Wendy’s.
The Wendy’s robbery occurred shortly after midnight March 6. The three suspects were arrested later that day. Investigators learned LaPorte had allegedly bragged about robbing the Johnson Lane General Store and had said he wanted to rob Wendy’s, according to court record.
Investigators set up surveillence at LaPorte’s residence, where they saw LaPorte, Hellwinkel and Reid leave in a truck. Investigators followed the suspects, who drove to the parking lot at the Carson Valley Inn, where Hellwinkel’s car was. There, investigators arrested the two adults and found items of evidence in their vehicles. Reid admitted conspiring to commit the robbery at Wendy’s and was taken into custody.
All three suspects were cooperative with investigators, according to the sheriff’s office.
Through searches of their vehicles and a hotel room the two adults rented, investigators found two semi-automatic .22-caliber handguns, two full ammunition magazines for the guns, an aluminum baseball bat, clothing believed to have been worn during the crimes and about half of the money reported stolen. LaPorte and Hellwinkel’s shoes matched prints at both crime scenes, according to the sheriff’s office.
LaPorte and Hellwinkel both appeared in East Fork Justice Court March 9. They were appointed attorneys by the court and are scheduled to appear again today for pre-preliminary hearings.
Reid appeared in Douglas County District Court March 9 and is scheduled to appear again March 16. He may have to faces the alleged crimes as an adult.
“We haven’t made a decision whether to certify him as an adult,” said Deputy District Attorney Derrick Lopez.
Reid, who has prior juvenile offenses, was commended in court last week before the robbery for doing well on juvenile probation. Reid was charged in September 1997 with four counts of unlawful use of a controlled substance involving marijuana and methemphetamine. He attended a 60-day residential substance abuse treatment program at the Vitality Center in Elko.
In December, District Court Judge Michael Gibbons placed him on probation, ordering 48 hours of community service and a twice-a-week attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Reid was back in court in January after he violated his probation by smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Gibbons ordered him placed at China Spring Youth Camp but gave Reid two months to prove himself. He was to be sent to China Spring last Friday, the same day as the Wendy’s robbery, but avoided that because of his performance.
Monday, Gibbons denied a request to place Reid on house arrest, ordering him to remain in detention until officials decide what to charge him with.
“Justin, I will not release you,” Gibbons said. “I hope your involvement is not such that you will be charged as a principal. Robbery is a very, very serious offense. You could be certified as an adult. If a firearm was involved, it’s presumed there will be certification as an adult.
“Last week, you avoided confinement ot China Spring. It probably would have been better to have you confined,” Gibbons said. “I thought you were doing well in treatment. I want you to remain in detention until next week’s petition hearing.”
LaPorte also has a record in juvenile court.
In September 1996, LaPorte, then 16, and another boy allegedly shot out about 20 car windows with a BB gun. As a result, he was ordered to attend China Spring. Later, he and another of the camp’s residents escaped. They went to a friend’s house in the Gardnerville Ranchos, and entered without the owner’s permission by removing a screen door. While inside, they took food and beverages but were caught when the homeowner came home early.
At their court appearances, none of the suspects indicated they could afford attorneys. Tod Young was appointed to represent LaPorte, the Roeser law firm was appointed to represent Hellwinkel and Mark Jackson was appointed to represent Reid.
Editor’s note: Staff writer Sheila Gardner contributed to this story.
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