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Former Libby man faces hefty restitution bill in theft cases

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | May 17, 2024 7:00 AM

A former Libby man, now living in Washington and accused of several break-ins and thefts from Libby area businesses a year ago, was sentenced and ordered to pay more than $8,000 in restitution Monday in Lincoln County District Court.

Andrew Tyler Watts, 24, of Port Angeles, was initially charged with six counts of theft, including two felonies and four misdemeanors after a lengthy investigation by officers in the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. 

Watts pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft on March 25 in Lincoln County District Court. The others were dismissed in a plea deal between the county and Watts.

Watts told Judge Matt Cuffe he would be able to pay any fines and costs during his plea hearing. On May 13, Cuffe ordered Watts to pay $7,774.13 in restitution to Dream Marine and $599 to Save Rite West. Watts also received a 5-year suspended sentence. After a request from his public defender, Scott B. Johnson, Cuffe waived the cost of his defense, $800.

Watts was arraigned on the charges on Oct. 10, 2023, and pleaded not guilty. 

The first alleged incident occurred on March 4, 2023, when a woman called to report a theft from Save Rite West. She showed now-retired Kirk Kraft of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office where someone had cut the lock on the side of a service truck body. A Honda gas pump was stolen from the compartment.

The second occurred on March 31 when a man from Libby Christian Church called and reported a theft after someone cut a lock in the mission donation storage and took some donated clothing. The suspect was accused of syphoning diesel fuel out of the school bus. The man said he saw the suspect remove a can of fuel from the bus. A photo of a car at the scene was pulled from security camera footage and Kraft posted it on a platform for law enforcement to share information.

According to the charging document, Kraft matched the vehicle in the photo to a 2013 VW Passat. After working with Deputy Andrew Smith, the officers determined the suspect was Andrew Watt. Smith reported having an encounter with Watt at the vehicle and it was identical to the one in the photo.

According to a narrative by county Detective David Hall, he began assisting deputies with several burglary and theft investigations on April 4.

His report included the thefts of two fish finders and a tolling motor off a boat that was traded in from Dream Marine. The motor was found laying on the ground near the business. When Hall had a closer look he saw that a small paddle lock was cut off the motor so it could be removed from the mount.

Hall then learned from Deputy Kraft that Watts was living in an apartment complex on Dakota Avenue. Kraft reported finding Watt’s vehicle in the overflow lot at the old Cabinet Peaks Hospital building. Det. Hall reported the Passat matches the vehicle seen in security video footage at the church.

In addition, Kraft reported to Environmental Restoration, which is located behind Save Rite West, on the morning of April 4 where someone had broken into trailers. Kraft learned the suspect had been scared off by a witness and dropped the bolt cutters at the scene.

Kraft spoke to the witness who described the vehicle as a four-door car and said it sounded like it had engine problems or was a diesel.

When Lincoln County Dispatch had the state perform a search of maroon-colored Passats registered in Lincoln County, two were found. One belonged to a female U.S. Forest Service employee from Trego who currently lives in Whitefish and the other Passat belonged to Watts.

Hall also reported other stolen property included fish finders, downriggers, a large Honda generator, a trolling motor and a catalytic converter.