HJ/EDHerald Journal, Dec. 26, 2005

Stolen snowmobiles recovered in Lester Prairie

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

A strange set of circumstances led to two stolen snowmobiles being recovered last Saturday afternoon in Lester Prairie, following some quick thinking by Big Don’s Carthedral owner Don Artmann.

Earlier, Luke Dammann, an employee of Big Don’s called and said he could not make it in to work because his snowmobile had been stolen earlier that morning, and that he was going to try to track it down.

Dammann spotted the sled once, but lost it. He inquired at a residence about it, and received an answer that it had been left in town. Dammann contacted Artmann to see if he would go look for it, Artmann said.

Artmann and another of his employees, Brian Ernhart, went driving around town to see if they could spot the missing snowmobile. While they were looking for Dammann’s sled, they noticed another sled left in a ditch outside of town, which was not Dammann’s, but also looked out of place, Artmann said, adding he took note of the make and color of it.

Artmann and Ernhart saw another local resident driving a snowmobile, and asked him if he had seen Dammann’s sled, which he said he hadn’t, but said he would keep an eye out for it.

A short time, later the driver pulled back into Big Don’s and told Artmann he had seen the sled in the city park near the pool, Artmann said.

Artmann contacted local police.

Because the theft of the snowmobile took place in the county, and not the city, the McLeod County Sheriff’s Department investigated that theft.

The snowmobile, a 1996 Polaris XCR owned by Dammann, was recovered by authorities in the city park, according to the sheriff’s department. A juvenile male was taken to the sheriff’s department for questioning following the incident, which remains under investigation, according to the sheriff’s department.

When Artmann headed back to his business, he noticed someone putting gasoline into the snowmobile he had seen sitting in the ditch earlier in the day, and also noticed that the registration stickers had been partially removed from the sled, and he believed it may also be stolen.

Artmann again contacted authorities, and told the driver of the snowmobile, Bryce Lee Nelson, 21, of Waconia, to stay put until police arrived, according to a formal complaint.

Artmann asked Nelson where he had gotten the snowmobile, and all Nelson would give for an answer was that he got it “from a friend.”

Nelson refused to stay at Big Don’s, and proceeded to drive the snowmobile into Artmann, striking him in the shins. Ernhart, who was also present, turned off the sled and removed the key, Artmann said.

At that time, Nelson fled from Big Don’s. Ernhart attempted to catch him, but was unable to do so.

“The kid dove through some bushes and Brian lost him,” Artmann said.

A Lester Prairie police officer was able to track Nelson to a nearby residence, and take him into custody.

Nelson was discovered in the basement of the residence, and was wearing snowmobile boots that still had snow on them, and his jacket and helmet were found in the garage, according to the complaint.

It was discovered that the snowmobile Nelson was on at Big Don’s had indeed been reported stolen from Hutchinson the day earlier.

“We preach about proactive community orientated policing, and this case is a perfect example of how important it is for citizens and police working together to solve crimes,” said Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson.

Nelson is being charged with second degree assault – dangerous weapon for running into Artmann, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment, and/or a $14,000 fine, as well as theft, which carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, and/or a $10,000 fine.

As of late last week, Nelson remained in custody at the McLeod County Jail on $200,000 bond or $20,000 cash. His next court appearance was set for Friday, according to the McLeod County Attorney’s Office.

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