A Blaine County man was arrested last week on a $75,000 bench warrant after failing to appear in court on a felony grand theft charge that stemmed from a series of burglaries he allegedly carried out in Warm Springs in 2020.

Preston Clark, 35, pleaded guilty on May 18 to felony grand theft in exchange for the dismissal of two other counts of felony burglary.

At the time, Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback recommended a sentence of five years of supervised probation, 66 days in county jail and various fines and restitution payment at the judge’s discretion. Fredback also recommended that Clark’s probation period be cut short after 3 years if he paid restitution and complied with probation terms.

But after Clark failed to show up for a sentencing hearing in July—and declined to provide information about his legal and social background to a pre-sentence investigator, as required to help the court determine an appropriate sentence—Fredback issued the $75,000 warrant on Nov. 14.

Clark is thought to have entered two residences and a shed in unincorporated Ketchum between January and February 2020 and taken a gas-powered chainsaw, a vintage KDX200 motorbike, a Honda snowblower and sports equipment with a collective value over $1,000, according to probable-cause-for-arrest affidavit written by Blaine County Sheriff’s Deputy John Lowder.

Clark faces 34 years in state penitentiary—14 years for grand theft and 10 years for burglary—if the court decides to nullify the plea agreement he entered into in May.

According to Lowder’s affidavit, on Feb. 10, 2020, Lowder and a detective drove out Warm Springs to follow up on reports of a string of burglaries on Sandy Lane, situated about a mile east of Frenchman’s Hot Springs. At the time, Clark was the only full-time resident on the road, Lowder stated.

Police found both the missing motorbike and chainsaw “approximately 100 feet behind Preston’s home covered with a gray tarp” and observed motorcycle tire tracks from the neighbor’s shed to Clark’s residence, as well as boot prints that matched Clark’s in the homes that had been apparently burglarized. According to Lowder, Clark claimed that one of the properties broken into was an Airbnb that “other guests could have access” to.

In September 2020, Clark’s parents, who have consistently attended their son’s hearings, wrote an email to 5th District Judge Ned Williamson that they would like Clark to receive mental health treatment and return to live with them in Florida. That decision was favored by Williamson, who reduced Clark’s bond from $25,000 to $2,500 on the condition that he reside with his parents and abide by their house rules.

Clark did not follow that condition, however, and broke a third court order by coming into contact with his alleged victims and their properties, Fredback noted last week. Clark’s $2,500 bond was forfeited and his new sentencing hearing set for Jan. 24, 2022. 

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