‘Deep-seated phobia of bears’ led to Aspen car theft, lawyer tells court
A Delta County man who said he stole a car this fall in downtown Aspen because he was afraid of bears and had nowhere to stay will spend the next 18 months in a program that provides an alternative to prison.
Davey Naranjo, 34, pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated motor vehicle theft in the case and will serve his time at Garfield County Community Corrections, a rules-intensive program in Rifle that offers therapy, work and life-skills training and job placement for convicted felons.
Naranjo admitted stealing the vehicle, which was parked behind New York Pizza with the keys inside, in October, according to court documents. He was caught almost immediately on North Eighth Street and told officers he “knew it was a bad idea” to take the car, the documents state.
Naranjo’s lawyer, public defender Molly Owens, said in court Tuesday that her client holds “a deep-seated phobia of bears” and took the car that night to use as shelter for himself and his fiancé. Owens urged District Judge Chris Seldin to sentence Naranjo to supervised probation only, noting that he has worked at a local temp agency and could stay at Aspen’s homeless shelter until he found housing.
Prosecutor Sarah Oszczakiewicz, however, urged Seldin to sentence Naranjo to prison. She noted that his criminal history dates back more than 20 years and includes multiple felony convictions, stints on probation and a two-year prison sentence in Florida.
In addition, Naranjo has been using heroin, psychedelic mushrooms, cocaine, opiates and alcohol in the past six months, she said.
Oszczakiewicz also cast doubt on Naranjo’s bear story, asking what he was doing in the alley at 11 p.m. and what he was doing in Aspen in general that late if he didn’t have a place to stay.
In imposing the community corrections sentence, Seldin said he wanted Naranjo to have a chance to learn life skills that could stabilize him. However, Seldin warned Naranjo that the program is in high demand and doesn’t tolerate dissension. If Naranjo is kicked out, he will likely end up in prison, Seldin said.
Naranjo was also arrested in September and charged with misdemeanor trespassing after officers caught him and four other men squatting in the new Aspen Police Department building now under construction on Main Street.
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