Fugitive captured in south Colorado
It’s been two years since a suspected marijuana trafficker reportedly led authorities on a high-speed chase into the San Juan Ridge woods, hopped out of his new, cash-paid pickup, and vanished with his Rottweiler dog.
Neighbors and acquaintances said he was a long-distance runner. They weren’t kidding.
Last week the run ended, when 49-year-old John Sladek was arrested more than 1,100 miles away, in the mountainous town of Crestone, Colo. He and four others were arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession, cultivation and distribution.
“We felt that it was inevitable that he would turn up, but I thought it would take a little bit longer than this,” Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Mason said Thursday.
The Saguache County Sheriff’s Department and FBI reported finding 100 pounds of marijuana at Sladek’s home along with $25,000 cash, guns, pot-growing equipment and vehicles, including a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. They also reported finding a Rottweiler and a parrot.
“Mean parrot, too. That bird took a chunk out of a few people,” Saguache County Undersheriff Dan Warwick said.
Items from the April 3 search mirrored what Nevada County narcotics authorities say turned up April 5, 2000, at Sladek’s home on San Juan Ridge’s Bystander Way.
Besides Nevada County, Sladek is also wanted on pot-related warrants in Santa Clara County, Taos County, N.M., and Blaine County, Idaho, said Warwick, whose south Colorado county – at 8,000 feet elevation, with about 6,000 people – is roughly halfway between Denver and Santa Fe, N.M.
The FBI tipped off Warwick, and he and another officer visited the house Sladek was renting. It was the only house on a dead end road in the San Luis Valley, which encompasses several cities and counties.
“He came out and started talking to us,” Warwick said, adding that Sladek identified himself as John Taft. “Once we left the area, we made arrangements to take him down.”
Sladek and his co-defendants – who allegedly helped harvest and dry the marijuana – were arrested without incident, Warwick said. Officers also seized a shotgun and two handguns.
Two years ago, Sladek – using a dead man’s name as an alias – eluded Nevada County narcotics agents who tried to arrest him on warrants in the Glenbrook Basin.
Driving with his dog in a new $33,000 Chevrolet pickup, Sladek cruised up Highway 49 to Peterson’s Corner. He then braked, causing a rear-end crash with California Highway Patrol car. He sped off again and finally ditched his vehicle on a brush-covered dirt road off Tyler-Foote Crossing Road.
A ground and air search for Sladek – a marathon runner and fitness buff, those who know him say – was fruitless.
Soon after, his girlfriend, Kimberlee Douglass, was pulled over near Sladek’s home and allegedly found with a loaded handgun and shotgun.
A search of Sladek’s home allegedly turned up 133 pot plants, 10 pounds of processed marijuana, indoor-growing equipment, night-vision goggles and an assault rifle.
Mason said it’s possible Sladek won’t appear in Nevada County Superior Court for a long time because of the new case in Colorado. Douglass’ charges were dropped but could be refiled.
Sladek is being held without bail while his co-defendants are free on bond, Warwick said.
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