Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Two recent Oregon Court of Appeals rulings prevented authorities from charging an Idaho couple with first-degree burglary, a Class A felony, when they were found inside a Durkee home without the owner’s permission Monday night.

Deylen Scott Loos, a 33-year-old from Meridian, Idaho, whom police listed as a transient, and Pearl Naomi Adair, 38, of Boise, instead were charged with the Class A misdemeanor crime of first-degree criminal trespassing, District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said. The couple appeared in Baker County Circuit Court Tuesday. Judge Greg Baxter granted them both conditional releases from jail.

Loos and Adair also were charged with third-degree criminal mischief for “tampering with property” at the Durkee home where they allegedly had been staying without permission.

Shirtcliff said the couple used dishes and threw trash on the floor during their stay. And they were charged with third-degree theft for drinking beer kept at the house. Both charges are Class C misdemeanors.

“Because they were in the home for a period of time, we can’t prove their intent was to steal (or to vandalize),” Shirtcliff said.

Now, the law requires proof of “specific intent” that “at the point in time when they went in, they intended to commit a crime,” he said.

Prior to the 2018 rulings, which Shirtcliff said he had just recently discussed with local law enforcement officers, first-degree burglary could be charged if a suspect entered a home illegally and later committed a crime while inside.

The Durkee house is owned by Thomas Bludworth, who lists a mailing address of Scappoose, according to the Baker County Assessor’s Office. His relatives, Olive and Lessie Phillips, and their neighbor, Cindy Fortin, called dispatch Monday night to report that someone was in the house without authorization. Lessie Phillips had first called her relative to verify that nobody was supposed to be in the house.

Cindy Fortin and Olive Phillips, who brought a shotgun with him, returned to the house, which sits on the west side of the freeway at Durkee, and called for the suspects to come out. Olive Phillips, with the help of Fortin’s husband, Mike, who also was armed with a shotgun, held the two at gunpoint until deputy Eric Colton arrived to arrest the suspects.

The Baker County case closely mirrors the cases — -State v. McKnight, Lincoln County, and State v. Henderson, Multonmah County -— on which the rulings were made, Shirtcliff said.

In both cases, the appeals court found that the lower court erred in finding that the defendants intended to commit a crime at the start of an initial trespass. As a result, the court reversed first-degree burglary convictions and remanded them for entry of judgments of first-degree criminal trespass convications and resentencing.

“This is causing prosecutors grief all over the state,” Shirtcliff said. “I don’t agree with it. I don’t like it. But it is the law.”

Only an Oregon Supreme Court ruling reversing t he appeals court decisions could change the situation at this point, Shirtcliff said.