Victim questions lack of arrest in Big Oak Valley burglary |

Victim questions lack of arrest in Big Oak Valley burglary

A burglary suspect spent all night trekking back and forth between a garage full of music equipment and the end of the road, where he was temporarily stashing stolen goods. But his efforts were stymied when he got a truck and trailer stuck in the mud, and a sheriff’s spokesman said Nevada County deputies recovered all of the goods.

But the deputies who responded did not take the man into custody Monday morning, citing coronavirus guidelines, and that left victim Dawnya VanDusen puzzled and alarmed.

“It’s scary right now,” VanDusen said. “I don’t feel comfortable at all. He could come back.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Trygg acknowledged the decision not to book in this particular case could be seen as unfavorable.

“It is important to consider the wellbeing of current inmates and correctional staff,” Trygg said in an email. “While there is no clear formula to identify who is booked and who is not, we are considering the immediate danger to the public and victims against the jeopardy of exposing a jail population to an asymptomatic arrestee.”

According to Trygg, deputies were able to locate all of the stolen property, obtain a statement from the suspect, and return the stolen property to the property owner. A report will be submitted to the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office requesting prosecution, he added.

This wasn’t the first time music equipment had been stolen from VanDusen’s Big Oak Valley residence.

Last week, she said, two Paul Reed Smith guitars were stolen from the garage/music cave.

“We had new locks put on the doors,” VanDusen said, adding she is not sure how Sunday night’s break-in occurred. “Someone went in the side door and stole a bunch of stuff.”

Follow the tracks

VanDusen’s boyfriend had just bought himself a new guitar to replace the stolen ones and noticed it was missing Monday morning, she said. The couple then discovered other items were gone, including a giant flat-screen television and some amplifiers, and called 911.

“Upon arriving on scene, our deputy located very distinct shoe prints and also noted tire tracks that were left in the mud from (a) dirt bike being rolled off the property,” Trygg said. “The deputy followed the tracks.”

A number of items were located hidden in the brush, including the dirt bike and TV, VanDusen said.

“Then here comes the guy coming down the dirt road,” she said. “He basically walked into the (deputy). … He was coming back down to get the things he had stashed in the trees.”

VanDusen speculated the would-be thief had worked all night, adding he left footprints all across her property.

“He was really cruising around,” she said. “He was quiet, because we didn’t hear him and our dogs didn’t bark.”

Further exploration revealed he had gotten a truck and trailer stuck up the road, and a second trailer also was located. After VanDusen posted photos on Facebook, she said the trailers’ owners chimed in — they had been stolen from a storage facility the day before.

Those trailers were returned to their owners, California Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Steele said.

The items stolen Sunday night were all recovered, VanDusen said, including two guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, a backpack with laptop, and a .45-caliber pistol. But, she added, “The TV was totally busted, and the dirt bike wouldn’t start.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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