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Havre arrest spawns investigation by Missoula police


A Great Falls man who served time in prison for burglary was arrested early Wednesday in Havre on burglary and other charges. His arrest has sparked a criminal investigation by law enforcement agencies in at least three cities.

Brent Ray Nelson, 40, was arrested shortly after police responded to a burglar alarm at Hi-Line Lanes bowling alley at 12:48 a.m. Wednesday. When officers arrived at the building, they found Nelson trying to pry open the back door with a crowbar, Havre Assistant Police Chief Mike Barthel said. Police arrested Nelson and found him in possession of "multiple suspected burglary tools," Barthel said.

Officers then found a 2004 Dodge diesel pickup truck parked in a lot across the street from the bowling alley, Barthel said. The truck had Great Falls license plates that turned out to be fictitious, he said. Officers checked the vehicle identification number on the truck and found that it had been reported stolen in Spokane, Wash., he said.

Items seized from the truck as evidence include computer equipment, suspected burlgary tools, a police scanner, pawn shop receipts, and suspected marijuana paraphernalia, Barthel said.

The suspected burglary tools included lock cutters and pry bars, Barthel said.

Havre authorities notified the state Probation and Parole Bureau office in Great Falls, which has supervised Nelson since September, office supervisor Ken Grady said today. Based on information from Havre police, probation officers raided a Great Falls storage unit rented by Nelson, Grady said. The search led to the retrieval of $2,000 to $3,000 in property, he added.

Cascade County sheriff's Capt. Dan Smrdel said this morning the Missoula Police Department is investigating the contents of the storage unit and that his department is assisting. He referred additional questions to Missoula police detective Joe Gaffney, who could not be reached for comment.

Grady said police are investigating whether items in the storage unit may have been stolen in Missoula.

No charges have been filed in connection with the storage unit.

Nelson is being held in the Hill County Detention Center on charges of burglary, possession of burglary tools, motor vehicle theft, operating a motor vehicle with fictitious plates, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Nelson has been under the supervision of the Great Falls Probation and Parole Bureau office since September following his release from a state prerelease center. He was convicted in Missoula County on Sept. 11, 1995, of three counts of felony burglary, Grady said.


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