Trio of safe-crackers face burglary charges

WORTHINGTON -- A safe-cracking gone awry landed three young men in jail earlier this week. All three appeared before a judge Thursday for a bail hearing.


WORTHINGTON -- A safe-cracking gone awry landed three young men in jail earlier this week. All three appeared before a judge Thursday for a bail hearing.

Jorge Luis Saenz Jr., 19, of Worthington, was charged Wednesday with first-degree burglary, two counts of theft and two counts of receiving stolen property. His bail was set at $5,000 with conditions, $25,000 without conditions.

Christopher John Edward Bjerke, also known as Chris Cowell, 18, of Heron Lake, was also charged with first-degree burglary, two counts of theft and two counts of receiving stolen property, with an additional possession of drug paraphernalia charge. Bail for Bjerke was set at $5,000 with conditions, $10,000 without.

Marlon James Sands, 23, of Willmar, faces charges of first-degree burglary, two counts of theft, two counts of receiving stolen property and giving a peace officer a false name. His bail was set at $10,000 with conditions, $50,000 without.

According to the criminal complaint, authorities were dispatched to an address on North Spring Avenue shortly after 4 a.m. Monday for a report of an unknown white van in the caller's backyard. Upon arrival, an officer saw a white van parked next to a small storage shed with two men and a woman standing nearby. When they saw the officer, they began to walk away. When told to stop, the men complied, while the woman left the area.


The officer recognized one of the men as Saenz, who told the officer it was his house and he was moving a safe for a friend. He claimed he didn't know his friend's name or who the van belonged to. When he tried to leave, the officer detained him and handcuffed him. Then, while handcuffing Bjerke, the officer found a marijuana pipe in his pocket.

The officer found both rear doors open on the van. Halfway inside the storage shed was a black safe, three to four feet tall and two feet wide. The plates on the van were registered to a man in Adrian who was the victim of a previous burglary.

While checking into the owner of the van, the officer noticed a woman allegedly trying to sneak past the storage shed. She admitted she had run from the van when the officer arrived. She said she was with the men when they went to Adrian, but didn't know they had planned to break in. She also said the van was from Adrian, and there was additional stolen property in the van. A third man was also involved, she said.

The possible owner of the van and safe was contacted by Adrian law enforcement. The victim said the van had been in his attached garage, and the safe had been in a locked office in the garage. Authorities found signs the lock was tampered with. It appeared someone had entered through a side door, broken into the office, loaded the safe into the van using a motorcycle lift in the garage and driven off.

The woman allegedly stated she had driven a black Durango with Saenz, Bjerke and another man to Adrian. She said she drove because Saenz was intoxicated and had a revoked driver's license. This was the second time in the past week they went to this particular house, she added, because they had gone earlier to "check it out."

They allegedly brought torches to try to open the safe, but decided to steal the van and safe when the torches would not work. While moving the safe to Saenz's house, his mother saw them out the window and, not knowing who was in her yard, called authorities.

During a recorded interview, Bjerke at first said he was just "helping move stuff," but later admitted he thought there was money in the safe and allegedly said, "I guess we stole it." He identified the third man with them as Sands and admitted they went to the residence the first time and found the safe locked, so they returned with torches to open it. When they were still unable to open the safe, they allegedly used the jack to lift the safe into the van, which Bjerke said took half an hour. He had thought he would get enough money, he claimed, to pay off his traffic tickets and a car loan.

Saenz gave a statement in which he allegedly said he intended to pay bills with the money from the safe. He claimed other details were blurry and he couldn't rem-ember exactly what happened.


After receiving an anonymous call about the location of Sands, authorities went to a residence on Second Avenue and were met at the door by a man claiming his name was John. Another person in the house told authorities the man was really Sands, which was proven during the booking process by matching tattoos from a booking file. Sands declined to give an interview.

The next court appearance for all three is 9 a.m. Nov. 4. Charges against the woman involved are pending.


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