Comments on an online story can at times be a reporter’s worst nightmare, but other times provide humor, emotion or thoughtful insight.
And sometimes, a reader with personal knowledge about a story will provide some hidden detail or a knowing acknowledgment. Such was the case in January.
That’s when I first wrote about Brooke Elene Gee, 26, of Pocatello who was arrested after a Jan. 25 early-morning chase and 40-minute standoff in the South Hills. Gee and Sinthia Ramirez, 22, of Kimberly were both charged with several crimes stemming from the incident.
Later that day, someone commented on the story.
“The cops are going to have some fun with those gals,” wrote the commenter using the name finallyfree. “Lots information to be had …”
Clearly "finallyfree" knew what he or she was talking about.
First, there were the details of the January chase and how it began. The Jerome County Sheriff’s Office was looking for Gee and Ramirez and alerted nearby agencies after the women caused a disturbance at the Days Inn off Idaho Highway 93 north of the interstate.
In the hotel room they were staying in with an unidentified man, deputies found nearly three pounds of methamphetamine and two guns, including one that was reported stolen in a Twin Falls County burglary, a Jerome sheriff’s lieutenant said.
The women slipped away when deputies responded to the disturbance call, but they were spotted about 12 hours later and fled into the South Hills, where the Charger slid off an icy patch of road. They refused to get out for 40 minutes before finally surrendering.
Gee was originally charged only with a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest and was released on $300 bond, and she hasn’t been charged in Jerome for the drug or guns found in the safe.
But a warrant was issued for her arrest after police impounded the Charger and found drugs, drug paraphernalia and more than $2,200 in Gee’s purse.
When Gee walked into the sheriff’s office March 4 to retrieve the Charger, she was instead arrested on the warrant and charged with another drug possession felony after a deputy said he found a methamphetamine pipe in Gee’s jacket pocket.
Gee was released after posting $10,500 bond on those charges. But she got into trouble again March 28 when she went back to the sheriff’s office to again retrieve belongings from the car. In the trunk of the car, police had earlier found three guns, including one that was reported stolen out of Twin Falls. Gee said one handgun was hers but the other two belonged to a man named Mauro Morales. But she told a detective that after Morales borrowed the Charger, she found the two guns inside the car and put them in the bag with her pistol.
For that, Gee is now being charged with felony grand theft by possession of the stolen firearm. She was arraigned on that charge and another drug possession charge Wednesday in Twin Falls County. Her preliminary hearing is set for Friday. She also has a sealed case in Cassia County.
Ramirez, who was driving the Charger the night the women fled from police, pleaded guilty to felony eluding last month and is set to be sentenced May 9. Prosecutors dismissed two misdemeanor charges against Ramirez stemming from the early-morning chase.
So "finallyfree," the commenter on the first story about Gee and Ramirez, clearly knew what he or she was talking about in saying there was a lot more information to be had.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Gee and Ramirez’s arrest ended up producing another huge story. In the probable cause affidavit for the original arrests, a sheriff’s deputy wrote the Dodge Charger Ramirez was driving “was wanted in questioning in regards to a shooting and drug case from Jerome County.”
At that time, I hadn’t heard about any shootings in Jerome, but as soon as I got back to the office I made some calls. I soon found out the shooting happened not in Jerome County, but in the desert just north of there, in Lincoln County. After a few more phone calls to learn more, I broke the news of an execution-style shooting in Lincoln County for which three people are currently facing felony charges that include attempted murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping. A fourth man is wanted on a one-million-dollar warrant in connection to the shooting.
Gee and Ramirez’s connection to that case, if there is a connection, is still unclear. They were not mentioned in Lincoln County court documents detailing the shooting and have not been charged in connection to that alleged crime, but if it weren’t for their arrests, I might have never learned about the Lincoln County shooting.