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Cottage Grove teen pleads to multiple felonies in robbery, burglary spree

A Cottage Grove teen who admitted to breaking into several homes, threatening a woman with a knife and trying to rob another while she walked her dog has pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges.

Alex H. Westman,17, of Cottage Grove, pleaded guilty Monday in Washington County District Court to robbery and three burglary counts in connection with a string of crimes he committed in a Cottage Grove neighborhood earlier this year.

Westman was 16 at the time of the offenses, on April 4 and 5, but was certified to stand trial as an adult due to a prior criminal record and unsuccessful court programming, according to a statement by Washington County Attorney Pete Orput.

The criminal complaints filed in Westman’s case allege the following:

The teen targeted homes along Hinton Avenue for burglary by throwing rocks through a window or knocking to see if anybody was home. Court records show Westman admitted to the crimes when he was interviewed by Cottage Grove police.

The spree apparently started the evening of April 4. A resident in the 7700 block of Hinton Avenue called police to report that a young adult male suspect had knocked loudly on the front door. When a homeowner asked who was outside, the suspect fled. Police found shoe marks near the door handle.

Westman later told officers he was trying to kick in the front door but quickly left when he heard someone inside.

A short time after the first attempted burglary report, a female resident a block away called authorities to report that someone threw a rock at her living room window. She didn’t see the suspect because the window blinds were closed.

That same night, Westman approached a 58-year-old woman who was walking her dog on a path in the area. The woman later told police that the suspect, later determined to be Westman, confronted her and asked if she knew a particular person. She didn’t. Westman then talked with her and appeared to be pleasant. But when she turned to walk away, he pushed her to the ground; she fell face first over a snowbank and down an embankment, injuring her arms, legs and back. He demanded money from her, but she had none on her or in her apartment. Westman then apologized to her and walked away.

He told police in an interview that the woman seemed like a “nice lady,” according to a criminal complaint.

Also that night, Westman told police later, he threw a rock through a window of a home in the 7400 block of Hinton Avenue. When nobody responded, he “bullrushed” the door, broke in and stole electronic equipment and three bottles of booze.

Westman was caught the following night after pointing a knife at a woman in her home.

The woman had returned to her home in the 7800 block of Hinton Avenue and noticed a light on, unfamiliar computers in a room, a stocking cap on a table and a bag that didn’t belong to her.

Then there was a knock at her door. A young white male, later identified as Westman, asked her if “Derrick” was home. She told him he had the wrong address and closed the door. As she walked toward her kitchen, the door opened and Westman entered holding a knife extended toward her, the complaint says. He walked toward her as she picked up a telephone and dialed 911, screaming at him to leave. He grabbed a large bag and ran.

An officer who was responding to the woman’s 911 call saw Westman running across 79th Street while carrying a large bag. The officer chased Westman and eventually apprehended him. Police found a backpack and duffel bag where Westman had been running, along with a knife that the nearby homeowner said was used to threaten her.

When he was interviewed by investigators, Westman admitted to several burglaries. He used one home that he had broken into -- the one in which he threatened the woman with a knife -- as a staging site for items he stole from a home across the street. Stolen items included two computers, alcohol and duct tape.

Westman will be sentenced Jan. 24. As part of a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted aggravated robbery, first-degree burglary and two counts of second-degree burglary. The recommended sentence in the plea deal is 80 months, or just under seven years, in prison, said Tony Zdroik, juvenile division chief in the Washington County Attorney’s Office, who prosecuted the case.

“While the standard in juvenile cases is ‘best interests of the child,’ this office always must consider what is best for public safety,” Orput said in a statement. “This offender has demonstrated he is a serious threat to public safety and we will treat him accordingly.”

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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