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Missoula teen charged for burglaries that preceded fatal shooting

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Markus Kaarma

This undated still image taken from video shows Markus Kaarma at his home in Missoula, Mont. Kaarma has been charged with deliberate homicide in the shooting death of 17-year-old Diren Dede, an exchange student from Germany. Prosecutors said Kaarma fired his shotgun into his garage after sensors alerted him to an intruder Tuesday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)

It’ll take another $10,000 for an alleged young burglar of the Grant Creek home of Janelle Pflager and Markus Kaarma to get out of jail.

Tristan Alfred Staber, 18, already in custody since April 19 on a probation violation, appeared by video from jail Thursday in Missoula Justice Court on charges he and a 16-year-old accomplice stole a jar of marijuana, a bong and an iPhone from the garage of Pflager and Kaarma and a wallet from their vehicles around midnight on April 17.

The burglary occurred 10 nights before 17-year-old Diren Dede, an exchange student from Germany, was shot and killed by Kaarma in the same dark garage on Deer Canyon Court and touched off an international furor. Kaarma, 29, has been charged with homicide and authorities are mulling charges against Pflager for her part in the shooting.

Staber and his companion both admitted in early May to the April 17 burglary. The younger defendant’s name hasn’t been released. His case will be handled in Youth Court.

Staber is charged with felony conspiracy to commit burglary, which is punishable by 20 years in Montana State Prison and/or a $50,000 fine. He also faces a misdemeanor charge for conspiracy to commit criminal trespass to a vehicle.

Missoula County Justice of the Peace Amy Blixt went along with County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg’s recommendation of a $10,000 bond for Staber, consecutive to the $5,000 bond he was being held on for the probation violation. Blixt set a preliminary appearance for May 29.

Blixt noted Staber has yet to make a payment on $1,325 in outstanding fines for a conviction on an unrelated crime earlier this year. She told him he must make a payment within 30 days or come and see her.

According to his Facebook page, Staber is a senior at Big Sky High School.

Dede was also a Big Sky student who lived with his host family in the same Grant Creek neighborhood in which the shooting took place. He and another exchange student from Ecuador were reportedly “garage hopping” looking for beer when Dede was shot.

Pflager reported to police four days after her garage and vehicles were burgled that $90.75 was charged at Ole’s Country Station on North Orange on her stolen debit card and another $24.41 was charged the same day at Wendy’s on Reserve Street.

After Dede’s death, a concerned citizen informed a police detective that Staber was involved in the prior burglary, according to charging papers. Staber was interviewed and admitted that he and the 16-year-old friend, identified as John Doe, were “car hopping” in the Grant Creek area. Staber was driving and acted as a lookout as Doe went looking inside garages with open doors.

He came up empty in the first two garages. When they saw one of the overhead garage doors open at the home of Kaarma and Pflager, Staber parked just south the residence. Doe went inside and “returned with a big glass bong and a jar of marijuana,” the affidavit read. Staber said Doe also found the iPhone in the garage.

Doe next went inside two vehicles parked in the driveway and found a wallet belonging to Kaarma containing credit cards and gift cards, the complaint said. Doe also admitted to stealing the bong, marijuana and iPhone from inside the garage and a wallet from the truck. He denied stealing a woman’s wallet containing cash and credit cards and said he threw out the cellphone and credit cards, keeping only the bong, which he sold.

Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at (406) 523-5266 or by email at kbriggeman@missoulian.com.

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Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment

Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment reporter at the Missoulian

Related to this story

A District Court judge on Wednesday scolded the Missoula attorney representing a man accused of killing a German exchange student for “playing to the public” and running “a public relations campaign.” Attorney Paul Ryan responded by canceling plans to host a free community screening of Thursday’s U.S.-Germany soccer match, insisting he never made the connection between slain student Diren Dede’s nationality and love for soccer, and the U.S.-Germany matchup in the World Cup.

BERLIN — The father of a 17-year-old German exchange student shot dead in Missoula criticized the gun culture in the U.S. Thursday. "America cannot continue to play cowboy," Celal Dede told the German news agency dpa after arriving in the U.S. to arrange the transport of his son Diren's body back to Germany.

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