Vail Valley’s Case of the Stolen Sno-Cat solved, alleged thief still at large | SummitDaily.com

Vail Valley’s Case of the Stolen Sno-Cat solved, alleged thief still at large

Randy Wyrick / Vail Daily

This is the General Lee's natural habitat, not the High Desert in Mesa County.

MINTURN — John Brandenburg’s stolen Sno-Cat wasn’t gone long and didn’t get far.

Brandenburg is one of the owners of The General Lee, a big, orange Sno-Cat that was on a trailer when it was stolen some time the morning of Sunday, March 11, from the Turntable restaurant parking lot.

“It was definitely identifiable,” said Jessie Mosher, public information officer with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Brandenburg has had the machine for three years. The General Lee was in northern California, where AT&T owned it. Brandenburg picked it up on eBay from a guy who bought it in an auction.

He was going to take the family out Sunday morning, and one of his best childhood friends was in town, so a cruise in General Lee — so named because it’s orange like the famed car in “Dukes of Hazard” — seemed in order. And yes, it has The General Lee horn, with real air compressor horns.

They drove around the corner toward Minturn’s iconic Turntable restaurant where it was parked, and there was a big gap in the parking lot where his Sno-Cat used to be.

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COMMUNITY RALLY

Brandenburg called the police, but first posted The General Lee’s picture on Facebook. Brandenburg says the tips poured in, and his Facebook post was shared 3,000 times.

The community rallied. People messaged and called to say they saw the huge trailer being towed by a tiny Toyota Tacoma. One of The General Lee’s owners, a pilot, jumped in his plane to search from the air.

The suspect, 27-year-old Jason Cuervo, allegedly trailered the big, orange Sno-Cat west on Interstate 70 toward the high desert, where a Sno-Cat is mostly out of its element.

The General Lee was spotted by a woman in Mesa County who was curious about the small truck straining to pull the huge trailer. She was so curious that she followed it to a Grand Junction neighborhood near the base of the Colorado National Monument. The woman called the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, which asked the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office for a little help.

Mesa County deputies showed up to serve a search warrant, which is about the time Cuervo barricaded himself in the house.

Sure enough, The General Lee was in a garage at the same house as Cuervo.

Grand Junction authorities notified people in 55 surrounding residences to shelter in place — stay inside — while they dealt with Cuervo.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Grand Junction Police Department SWAT teams executed the search warrant.

Maybe Cuervo had barricaded himself in the house because of The General Lee, or maybe it was because of the weapons, ammunition, drugs and drug paraphernalia the SWAT team allegedly found when they went inside.

Cuervo was not located. However The General Lee is safe in a Grand Junction police impound lot. Brandenburg will pick it up around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, in plenty of time for this weekend’s Sno-Cat jamboree.

Like The General Lee, authorities suspect Cuervo is still in the Grand Junction area.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said Cuervo has several outstanding warrants for his arrest, including felony warrants. Cuervo is described as a 27-year-old white male, 180 pounds, and 6-feet-1-inch tall. If seen, then please contact 911.

The case is still under investigation, and anyone with information about any of this is asked to call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, 970-328-8500.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.