A brother-and-sister pair of leaf peepers in October spotted more than late-fall golden hues during their trek to McClure Pass — while getting the perfect shot of their travels, they found evidence from an April 2018 crime that led to the arrest of Aspen local Yuri Ognacevic.
“[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.
At the scene, police retrieved 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.
Ognacevic, 39, in July had pleaded guilty 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 last summer 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.
His father owns property about 3.2 miles from where the safes and banker bags were found, making the younger Ognacevic a person of interest in the years-old case. He was arrested and booked into the Pitkin County Jail Monday. As of Tuesday, he was still listed as an inmate, held on a $5,000 bond for alleged second-degree burglary, a class 4 felony, theft, a class 5 felony and criminal mischief, a class 2 misdemeanor.
“I believe that the scores of Ognacevic’s criminal activities, mostly cash, are similar to the scores, mostly cash, in this case,” Aspen Police Detective Ritchie Zah wrote in the affidavit.
Additionally, “Ognacevic worked as an Aspen Highlands ski patroller at some point prior to this incident and would have some knowledge of how to navigate the Aspen Highlands area,” he continued.
On Nov. 23, Zah — accompanied by Pitkin County Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham — visited Ognacevic in the jail, where he was at the time still serving his 270-day sentence from the Theatre Aspen conviction.
During that initial interview regarding the 2018 Aspen Highlands robbery, Ognacevic vehemently denied any wrongdoing before requesting an attorney and ending the conservation, according to the affidavit.
In subsequent dialogue with his mother, Ognacevic said he was “stressing out” and that he just “didn’t trust these people,” referring to law enforcement.
“Ognacevic’s mother told Ognacevic that she didn’t think Ognacevic had anything to worry about unless Ognacevic had done something. Ognacevic replied “of course I didn’t do anything… still scares me to be questioned about something whether I did it or not,’” the affidavit details.
But when Zah discovered the tip of a finger of a purple glove — that he’d found near the elevator entrance near the original crime scene — on Jan. 11 to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for DNA and fingerprint analyses, it was Ognacevic’s that was ultimately a DNA match.
“In researching the amount of DNA profiles in the CODIS DNA database for state and national searches, I found, per Google, that there are at least 2 million DNA profiles of convicted offenders stored in the CODIS DNA database for state and national searches,” Zah wrote of the analysis report he received March 30 from CBI. “The only profile match found by CBI was Ognacevic.”
Ognacevic is next due in Pitkin County District Court, virtually, May 3.