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Former Dogs confess

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Two graduates of Bandera High School have been arrested in conjunction with a spate of vehicle robberies that occurred in Bandera County and city.
According to Matt King, chief deputy with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office, Landon Ventura, 18, and Reed Blake, 20, were arrested Thursday, Sept. 10, and charged with multiple burglaries of vehicles in the city, Bandera River Ranch and the Flying L subdivision, as well as theft of firearms. Ventura, a former BHS football player, graduated in 2015 and Blake, the previous year.
"They admitted to 40 burglaries, but we haven't received that many reports as yet," King said.
He explained that the suspects allegedly stole items from unlocked vehicles, but did not break-in any vehicles. "Mr. Ventura and Mr. Blake targeted vehicles that were unlocked," King said. "They entered the vehicles and took whatever they could, including computers, money and firearms."
According to information obtained from Ventura, who confessed to the crime spree, the alleged burglaries took place before midnight on Thursday, Sept. 3, to approximately 4 am, Friday, Sept. 4.
One burglary occurred at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church on Cypress Street. In that incident, a violin was stolen from a vehicle after a man arrived at the church to assist his sister, who had called him to say she was frightened.
"Apparently, the woman called her brother about 3 am or 4 am," said City Marshal Will Dietrich. "After arriving at the church, the man failed to lock his vehicle. During the time he was with his sister, a violin was stolen from the unsecured vehicle."
However, according to Dietrich, rather than report the incident to law enforcement officers, the victim posted an extensive account about it on Facebook. City Councilman Glenn Clark discovered postings, printed the thread and brought it to the attention of Dietrich.
"The man has yet to come in and file a complaint and complete a report," Dietrich said in an interview on Friday, Sept. 11.
Additionally, a woman had reported a bag and jewelry worth between $10,000-$12,000 had gone missing from her vehicle while she was in the church. However, that burglary could not be attributed to Ventura and Blake because it had occurred a week earlier, according to Dietrich. "It looks like Mr. Blake and Mr. Ventura had gotten to only one vehicle in the city," the marshal said.
For the record, the violin has since been recovered, as well as all the stolen firearms. According to King, both Ventura and Blake cooperated and led investigators to where they had stashed their swag.
King said, however, that some recovered items have not yet been reported missing. "The men also threw away some items, including a $2,500 pair of binoculars that will never be recovered," he added.
Ventura, who was arrested the morning of Thursday, Sept. 10, quickly implicated Blake, who was detained that afternoon after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The pair became suspects after coins, stored in coffee cans, were taken from one of the burglarized vehicles. The suspects took the coins - still in the coffee cans - to a local bank for conversion to paper money. An employee kept the coffee cans, which were later identified by the victim.
BCSO investigators quickly honed in on Ventura, who purportedly gave up his supposed cohort in crime during a subsequent interview.
The suspects were booked into the Bandera County Jail on Sept. 10, and were released the next day after posting $10,000 surety bonds.
"The investigation remains open," King said. "We're trying to gather enough evidence to aggregate the crimes because they took place continuously. That will increase the felony charges." If convicted, the pair will face state jail felonies.
Both King and Dietrich cautioned county and city residents to remove all valuables from sight and to keep their vehicles locked at all times.