Two of six charges were dropped Thursday against accused car thief Jessie Q. Belland, 26, of North Platte at a preliminary hearing in Lincoln County Court.Belland was charged in the theft of two cars on Christmas. After wild trips through town on slick streets, both times the cars were abandoned at Red Cedars Trailer Court. The last time, police followed footprints in the snow to Belland’s trailer.
When questioned, Belland admitted driving one of the cars and said he had a hand in stealing both vehicles, prosecutors say.
Chance Ragle of North Platte and Katelyn McWain of Brady were also arrested.
Charges against Belland for criminal mischief and possession of methamphetamine were dismissed Thursday, but Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull said there is enough evidence to bind Belland to district court for trial for theft, aiding and abetting theft, willful reckless driving and flight to avoid arrest.
The methamphetamine charge was dropped because the only evidence was residue on a digital scale in a bag, along with some small empty baggies in one of the stolen vehicles.
The only evidence that those materials belonged to Belland was a notebook in the bag with the scale. The notebook had the name “Jessie” written on it.
Test results of the residue from the state crime lab have not returned yet. Defense attorney P. Stephen Potter told the court that the crime lab seems to feel they can take months to return test results. The only test of the residue was from a field test.
Turnbull decided to drop the meth charge because field tests can be inaccurate.
Charged with sexual assault of a minor, Cole Picotte, 21, of North Platte, appeared for a preliminary hearing Thursday but the case was continued until April 25.
That will give the county attorney time to straighten out a problem with the undelivered subpoena. A witness subpoena had been issued but was not delivered to the witness, so the attorneys agreed to continue the hearing in April.
Picotte was arrested Jan. 20 after a 15-year-old girl went missing for a few hours. Police were called and found that Cole and the girl were in an intimate relationship.
Picotte was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Bond was initially set at $100,000, but Turnbull lowered it to $50,000 Thursday at the request of defense attorney Pat Hays.
Chronic offender Ryan Gabel, 25, of North Platte will be tested for competency to stand trial.
Gabel was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under suspension, flight to avoid arrest and refusal to take a chemical test.
Defense attorney Pat Hays asked the court to continue the case to allow Gabel to be evaluated for competency.
Hays said the last time he talked with him at the jail “he became very agitated and I feared for my own safety. I could tell by Gabel’s eyes that he was either over-medicated or something was very wrong with the young man.”
Turnbull allowed the continuance and set another court date for March 28.