Carbondale robbery suspects, suffering injuries from cold, held on $100K bond
Ryan Summerlin and Jason Auslander
Post Independent/Aspen Times
A magistrate on Thursday set bond at $100,000 for each of the two young men arrested Wednesday night after a two-day manhunt stemming from an armed robbery in Carbondale.
Nicholas Ameral and Benjamin Weeks, both 19, were arrested in Basalt after a traffic stop at 10:19 p.m., according to Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan. Both were arrested on charges of felony aggravated robbery, which carries a potential prison sentence of 10 to 32 years and five years of mandatory parole, plus fines ranging from $3,000 to $750,000.
The two sparked a manhunt on Tuesday and Wednesday after jumping out of a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus and fleeing into the countryside near Holland Hills. They were wanted in the gunpoint holdup of the Cowen Center Valero convenience store late the evening of Feb. 16.
By about 9 p.m. Wednesday the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office had pinpointed their location using cell phone pings.
This location was also near where authorities had detected a cell phone ping Tuesday.
“Their location really didn’t change much since Tuesday,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. “They never really moved more than a mile.”
Law enforcement officers were also in contact with a third party connected to the pair, but were unable to make arrangements to have the men turn themselves in, said the sheriff.
Authorities were concerned about the two men’s health, since they were likely staying out in the open. DiSalvo didn’t know if they had been able to find shelter Tuesday night.
But they were not close to being adequately dressed for 36 hours in the Rocky Mountain backcountry, said the sheriff. Both suffered exposure, and Weeks, who had lost a shoe, was treated at Valley View Hospital after his arrest.
Neither of them had jackets.
“One of them may not have even had pants on during their time up there,” said DiSalvo.
After the pair fled the RFTA bus, officers found wet clothing hanging in a tree. Officers speculated that they had a change of clothes, but that didn’t turn out to be the case, said DiSalvo. “It’s amazing they were able to stay out there Tuesday night.”
Weeks sat in a wheelchair in court, and though Ameral was not in a wheelchair throughout, he was also taken out of the courtroom in a wheelchair. When Ameral stood for Magistrate Susan Ryan, he appeared to be in pain, and she immediately let him sit back down.
Deputy District Attorney Zac Parsons, in seeking the $100,000 bond, argued that Weeks, Ameral’s cousin from California, has no ties to the community and has a prior juvenile record with extensive contacts with California law enforcement. His criminal history also includes a deferred judgment for a felony burglary charge, said Parsons.
And while Ameral has significantly greater ties to the community, he and his family having lived in the area since 2009, Parson said authorities are concerned that those contacts helped the pair evade authorities.
Investigators are looking into the support the pair received while fleeing the manhunt, but no one else has been arrested in the case.
Ameral also had a second warrant for probation violation for failing to complete community service and pay an $80 community service fee.
Ameral told the court that he has worked in security since first working at the X Games last year.
Ryan rejected Ameral’s requests for a lower bond or personal recognizance bond.
The deputy district attorney said he was stunned by the amount of resources used to track these young men down — a point he used to argue for the $100,000 bond.
Further charges stemming from their evasion may also be forthcoming, said Parsons.
Ryan said she was setting bond at $100,000, which the prosecution requested, due to concern over risk to community safety and because both were flight risks.
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