BILLINGS — A suspect due in a Montana court Friday for the alleged kidnapping and killing of an Illinois man has been charged with a string of recent armed casino robberies in Billings and Livingston.
Court documents indicate Simon Jacobson has acknowledged to investigators carrying out 10 robberies and one attempted robbery since last April.
Casinos were targeted in each case, with Jacobson netting more than $70,000 in cash, according to an affidavit filed by Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ed Zink.
Jacobson's alleged crime spree came to a violent end last month, when he and a second suspect posed as law enforcement officers to enlist unwitting hotel employees help them gain access to the room of a 29-year-old man they wanted to rob at Billings' Extended Stay Hotel, authorities said.
Hotel workers provided a key to the room of the victim and his girlfriend and a second room for the perpetrators "to use for their investigation," according to court documents. Later, when the victim was attempting to run away, an employee coaxed him out of a laundry room where he had sought to hide and helped persuade him to surrender to his assailants, the documents state.
After Dejuan Laster, of Rockford, Ill., was kidnapped and robbed, Jacobson shot him and stashed the body in a culvert outside Billings, then fled to Colorado, prosecutors said.
Jacobson was arrested in Denver about a week after the killing. He's due to appear Friday in state District Court, and could face the death penalty if convicted on the most serious charge, deliberate homicide. Jacobson's court-appointed attorney from the Public Defender's Office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Each felony robbery charge carries a sentence of up to 40 years in state prison. Jacobson also faces charges of kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping.
Court documents show that after a string of unsolved casino robberies in recent months, investigators from Billings police and other agencies discovered "patterns and consistencies" in the cases. During the investigation into Laster's death, they noticed similarities between the casino robbery suspect profile they had developed and surveillance video that showed Jacobson's actions at the Extended Stay.
The affidavit from Zink said Jacobson initially acknowledged to two of the robberies during interviews with detectives in Denver, then admitted to nine other heists after his return to Montana to face charges in Laster's killing.
"It certainly clears a lot of our cases up," Billings Police Lt. Kevin Iffland said.
The robberies were apparently carried out alone and late at night, with Jacobson, in most cases, donning black clothing, wearing a nylon mask and using a handgun to force casino workers to turn over cash, according to the affidavit.
During one robbery, a casino employee tried to stop Jacobson by hitting him in the head with a claw hammer.
"But this only enraged the suspect, who then assaulted the man and threatened to kill him," Zink wrote.
During a subsequent interview, Jacobson "remembered being hit in the head with a hammer and indicated he was not hurt by it. He told detectives the guy who hit him was lucky because he showed restraint by not killing him."
Jacobson is being held at the Yellowstone County Detention Center on $2 million bail.