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Prolific criminal from Plains receives five-year sentence in Flathead County

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Lake County Leader | September 8, 2021 12:46 PM

A Northwest Montana man involved in a series of burglaries and thefts with several other individuals is headed to prison after he was sentenced last week in Flathead County District Court.

Mitchell Bear Raymond, 26, of Plains, pleaded guilty to burglary and bail jumping in August. He was sentenced Sept. 2 to five years in prison on the burglary charge and received a six-month suspended sentence in the Flathead County jail for bail jumping.

Raymond was scheduled to stand trial Jan. 13, but he didn't appear and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was then charged with bail jumping.

Raymond’s sentence will be served concurrently with multiple charges in Lake County as well as one each in Sanders and Lincoln for offenses involving theft, drug possession and criminal endangerment.

In Lake County, Raymond was reported to be one of five co-defendants involved in a series of home burglaries and storage units in 2018. Two of his co-defendants, Eugene Thomas Germain and Brandon Tollie, were sentenced to lengthy state prison terms.

Raymond received a two-year deferred sentence in May in Lake County District Court for felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs and six-year deferred sentences for counts of felony burglary and felony theft, to run concurrently. He also received a one-year deferred sentence plus 30 days for felony bail jumping.

Flathead County District Judge Heidi Ulbricht said last week that Raymond also will have to pay restitution in the amount of $6,890.73 to the Kathleen Barker Trust.

Raymond received credit for time served, 96 days, in the Flathead County jail.

One of Raymond’s co-conspirators, Andrew Ornalee Kruse, was also part of the discussion in court last week.

Kruse was accused of stealing many items from the Barker residence during a burglary sometime between June and July 2019. He eventually pleaded guilty to an amended charge of misdemeanor theft and received a six-month suspended sentence in the Flathead County jail. He is on probation for the theft offense as well as a 3-year suspended sentence for drug possession and a suspended sentence for partner or family member assault.

Flathead County victim’s advocate Hannah Riley read a statement on behalf of the Barker family, whose property had been burglarized in Bigfork.

“Mr. Barker’s dad bought the land in 1946 after serving in World War II and farmed it for many years. When Andrew Kruse stole tools that he thought belonged to him more than my father, his evening of thievery was just beginning,” Riley said. “These tools weren’t just tools, they were my family’s legacy. The old tools would be considered antiques or collectibles. Our father didn’t leave us much, but the tools had a great deal of value,” Riley also read from the statement.

The statement also explained Byron Barker’s travels between Boise and Bigfork to set up security cameras and how he missed work because of the crime.

The connection between Kruse and Raymond came to light when correspondence between Raymond and another person indicated Raymond had several items from the Bigfork burglary in a vehicle he owned.

The agreement calls for Raymond's five-year sentence in Flathead County to be served concurrently with three cases in Lake County and one each in Sanders and Lincoln counties.

In Sanders County, Raymond pleaded guilty to drug possession.

Raymond faced a criminal endangerment charge in Lincoln County after a high-speed chase in November 2020 that began in Plains, entered Flathead and Lincoln counties and eventually ended in Sanders County.

Sanders County lawmen stopped the truck Raymond was in, but he escaped on foot before being arrested by agents with the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force and booked into the Flathead County Detention Center on Feb. 3. His bail is set at $310,520. The dollar figure is a total for the various warrants.