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Wife in tool theft case gets deferred sentence

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Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 10:23 am

The wife of a man facing charges of stealing tools from construction sites across the Flathead and selling them on eBay, while at the same time running a meth lab in his garage, received a deferred sentence for felony possession of dangerous drugs.

Kelly Hilbun, 49, and Terri Hilbun, 48, were arrested in June 2009 after the sheriff’s department received a tip and served a search warrant at their Antelope Trail home in Happy Valley. A man missing tools from a construction site had seen some of his tools for sale online, bought them to confirm they were his, and then contacted the sheriff’s office.

In addition to missing tools worth more than $100,000, according to court documents, officers found a van filled with electronic equipment stolen from an electronics store. They also found glassware, chemicals and a ventilation system in the garage that was allegedly used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Terri Hilbun was initially charged with one felony count of theft, one felony count of operating a clandestine lab and one felony count of possession of dangerous drugs. Sheriff’s Det. Kipp Tkachyk reported that Terri Hilbun had admitted using meth during an interview at the house and had shown him a vial of meth for her personal use.

Hilbun’s defense attorney, Vicki Frazier, moved to suppress her client’s statements to Tkachyk, claiming that officers had read Hilbun her Miranda rights when they questioned her about the stolen tools but not three hours later when they questioned her about the meth.

Frazier also claimed Hilbun’s statements were not voluntary because Hilbun was a meek, middle-aged woman not accustomed to police officers and had been handcuffed and forced to lay on the floor. Frazier also claimed Hilbun was scared about losing her job at Costco if the officers didn’t let her leave for work.

Hilbun later pleaded guilty to the felony drug possession charge, and the other two counts were dismissed. Flathead County District Court Judge Stewart Stadler sentenced her to a five-year deferred sentence in April 2010.

Meanwhile, her husband, a self-employed electrician who moved here from Washington about six years ago, faces three counts of felony theft, with maximum penalties of 10 years and $50,000 for each count, and one felony count of operating a clandestine lab. A pretrial conference is scheduled for February.

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