Preliminary hearing begins in Harbor Freight case
The preliminary hearings began Thursday morning for the two men suspected of robbing the Carson City Harbor Freight Tools store at gunpoint in September.
Chase Henderson, 25, and Kristopher Robinson, 37, were arrested the first week of October for allegedly entering the Carson Street Harbor Freight Tools store Sept. 19 with guns and demanding money from the store clerk and manager. The two took one manager’s car, which was later recovered by deputies.
The two appeared in Justice Court Thursday for robbery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and grand larceny of a motor vehicle.
The prosecuting attorney had five witnesses to testify at the proceedings, including Henderson’s girlfriend at the time who told police he told her of the crime. Due to her testimony, before the proceedings began, Robinson’s defense attorney attempted to file a motion to have the hearing severed for the two suspects, because the attorney believed the girlfriend’s testimony was hearsay and it would wrongly implicate Robinson’s involvement with the robbery. The sever would create two separate hearings and each would be tried separately instead of as codefendants.
However, the judge denied the motion claiming the testimony would most likely not be considered hearsay and if it was, he would address it.
The defense also asked for a motion to have the two suspects to not be present in the courtroom while the two Harbor Freight employees gave their testimonies because during the robbery the suspects were wearing masks and the defense wanted to avoid the employees falsely identifying the suspects because they didn’t actually see their faces to identify them. The judge granted the motion only for the Harbor Freight employees, but the two would need to be present for the deputies, detective and girlfriend who were all scheduled to testify.
The first two witnesses to testify were Blanca Rojas and Rita Michelle Krupp, the Harbor Freight employees who were present during the robbery. Both told the court they were locking up the store around 9:30 p.m. Sept. 19 when two men dressed in black hoodies and ski masks pointed guns at them and demanded they go back into the store.
“I didn’t want to go back into the store, but I did because I was terrified,” Krupp said.
She told police the alarm started going off when they went back into the store because they reopened the door after it had been locked. Krupp said one man walked her over to the alarm and watched her shut it off and she tried to put her code in backward because she had heard a rumor that by doing that it would trigger a distress call and the police would be called.
Because the two employees didn’t see the suspects’ faces to identify them, the court referred to the two suspects as the shorter man, Henderson, and the taller man, Robinson.
Both employees said the short man seemed to be in charge, he was the one giving orders to Krupp and the tall man seemed to be nervous and on edge. Rojas said the short man demanded they all go to the cash room in the back of the store where the safe and deposits were all kept. She said it was strange because the short man led the way and seemed to know where he was going because the door to the cash room wasn’t labeled and he knew which room to go to.
“If you didn’t work there you wouldn’t have known which door was the cash room,” Rojas said.
The two said the men forced them to put the money from the safe in a bag. Krupp said there was nearly $5,800 in the safe when they entered the room. The women said the tall man tried to tie up Rojas but they convinced him not to because they were cooperating, but he did take both of their cell phones so they wouldn’t be able to contact the police.
Krupp said the short man also demanded the keys to her car, a 2000 Dodge Stratus, so they couldn’t follow the suspects. The vehicle was later recovered by police near Carson Meadows Drive and Como Street.
The defense attorneys focused heavily on the physical descriptions of the two men the women could identify, including tattoos, facial hair and eye color. Krupp said she sort of recognized the short man because she believed she saw and interacted with him in the store earlier that day.
The court only got through the two witnesses Thursday, and decided to continue the rest of the hearing to a later date due to time restraints. The rest of the hearing is expected to continue the first or second week of November.