Roaring Fork Valley resident Yuri Ognacevic, 40, was able to identify himself by phone to Pitkin County District Court Judge Chris Seldin before entering a guilty plea to felony burglary Tuesday afternoon by referencing his past convictions and sentences served so that the judge could be sure it was in fact the defendant speaking.
“Previously — and I am currently on probation for, I pled guilty to one count of robbery, and I did three 90-day sentences at the Pitkin County Jail … and this case is predating that case, actually,” Ognecevic said.
“Right, I do remember that wrinkle,” Seldin replied.
Ognacevic, then 39, in July 2020 admitted guilt to holding up Theatre Aspen’s concession stand with a screwdriver during a July 2019 performance of “Guys and Dolls,” netting him about $250. Additionally, he was arrested that same summer, in 2019, in connection with two separate purse snatchings in a week — each by way of allegedly stealing purses off the back of chairs on Aspen restaurant patios.
The case that “is predating” those other instances — the one for which he pleaded guilty to class 4 felony burglary on Monday — had to do with an incident that occurred in April 2018 but the investigation for which wasn’t completed until three years later, in April of this year, resulting in Ognacevic’s arrest.
A brother-and-sister pair of leaf peepers in October last year were trying to get a photograph of the golden hues canvassing McClure Pass, but in doing so, found two rusted safes and three mostly emptied banker bags in connection with an Aspen Highlands burglary (in which three safes containing a total $7,704 were stolen) from three years prior, on April 8, the same day as that year’s season closing party. At the time, Ognacevic worked as a ski patroller on the mountain.
“[They] had been looking to take a photo with the final fall foliage when they spotted a single tree that still had its color at the bottom of a steep slope approximately 200 yards from the road near the top of McClure Pass,” an Aspen police report reads.
In some ways, it’s Ognacevic’s past that has led to many of the charges for which he’s pleaded guilty. Ognacevic was part of a group of a dozen local teenagers implicated in a string of armed robberies that shook the community in 1999. He was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in an armed robbery of the Clark’s grocery store where the perpetrators made off with nearly $22,000 in cash.
This latest charge carries a presumptive penalty range of between two and six years in the Department of Corrections, Seldin informed Ognacevic after accepting his guilty plea, but a pre-sentencing investigation, or PSI, will be conducted by the probation office, which will then make a sentencing recommendation before Jan. 3, when Ognacevic is next due in court.