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Published December 18, 2013, 08:17 PM

Police: Man left tracks to crime scenes in snow in Grand Forks burglaries

Shawn Houle faced 11 felony charges Wednesday in court alleging he burglarized or otherwise trespassed at six homes in south Grand Forks early Tuesday morning, mostly rifling through vehicles in the garages or driveways.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Shawn Houle faced 11 felony charges Wednesday in court alleging he burglarized or otherwise trespassed at six homes in south Grand Forks early Tuesday morning, mostly rifling through vehicles in the garages or driveways.

Police were aided by freshly fallen snow that led them, they said, step-by-step along several paths Houle allegedly took to take things.

Houle, 23, of Ashland, Wis., made his first appearance Wednesday in state district court via interactive TV from the county jail.

Last year, Houle lived in Grafton, N.D., according to court records.

Magistrate John Thelen set bond on five of the cases at $10,000 cash or surety, adding to an earlier cash-only bail of $10,000 on the sixth case set Tuesday by Judge Lawrence Jahnke.

Houle was arrested shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday, only minutes after he was seen by homeowners and left tracks in the 700 and 800 blocks of South 24th Street, on a comparative block on South 23rd Street and around a corner on Ninth Avenue South, about four blocks east of Altru Hospital.

Covered in snow

When a homeowner caught Houle inside his garage going through a 2012 Chevy Traverse, he called 911.

Police quickly arrived, finding Houle “covered in snow and highly intoxicated,” about a block away, connected by footprints in the snow right back to the caller’s house, according to officers’ affidavits.

Houle had used the “doggy door,” in the garage to unlock the people door of the place, police said.

Officers then began following the distinctive shoe prints they say Houle left to five other residences within about a block.

At one, he got inside a patio door of a house, and the homeowner again scared him off.

He mostly went into vehicles and left items piled up, but left behind.

He took a credit card from one of the vehicles; it was found on him at the jail. In some cases, it wasn’t apparent he took anything.

Houle faces one Class B felony of burglary that carries a top sentence of 10 years in prison if he’s convicted; and 10 Class C felony counts for an alleged second burglary, criminal trespasses and unlawful entries into vehicles, each carrying a maximum sentence of five years.

Houle’s next court appearance, when he could enter a plea, was set for Jan. 29.

He had no attorney at Wednesday’s hearing.

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