Second suspect in Siskiyou courthouse gold theft arrested

Skye Kinkade
David Dean Johnson, left, and Scott Wayne Bailey, right, are the two men suspected of breaking into the Siskiyou County Courthouse in Feb. 2012 and taking more than $1 million in historic gold nuggets.  Photo courtesy of the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department

The second suspect in the Siskiyou County Courthouse gold heist was apprehended in San Pablo last week and will soon be transported to Siskiyou County Jail, said Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey.

Scott Wayne Bailey, age 51 of El Sobrante, was arrested on an outstanding warrant and tried to flee from arresting officers, Lopey said.

Bailey, along with suspected accomplice David Dean Johnson, age 49 of El Cerrito, is accused of breaking into the courthouse in February 2012 and taking $1.2 million in historic gold nuggets and other artifacts from a display in the lobby.

Johnson turned himself into Siskiyou County Sheriffs detectives on April 1 and is being held on $1 million bail. He has pleaded not guilty to burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, two counts of vandalism, a petty theft charge and a special enhancement for the value of the theft being over $200,000. The charges also include an enhancement for Johnson’s five prior felony convictions.

Johnson’s case was set for trial on June 25, but on June 11 he moved for a continuance, according to a joint press release from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office. He was set to return to court on Aug. 8 for various motions and to set a new trial date.

In the release, DA Kirk Andrus called Bailey’s arrest “excellent timing” and said his office will seek to prosecute the suspects jointly “in order not to expend county resources unnecessarily.”

Johnson and Bailey were identified as key suspects in the case after “a long and exhaustive investigation” and arrest warrants were issued in March.

During Johnson’s preliminary hearing in a Siskiyou County courtroom in April, Detective Yves Pike testified that DNA evidence collected from a bottle of water thought to have been consumed by one of the gold thieves matches Johnson’s.

Lopey said there is still investigative work to be done in Bailey’s case, and the “major objective at this point is to build a strong case” so the District Attorney can successfully prosecute the suspects. He recognized the interagency cooperation and support the Sheriff’s Department received from Bay Area and local law enforcement agencies.

“This arrest is the fruit of thorough investigation and diligent pursuit of the suspects,” said Andrus in the statement. “Our top priority is to achieve justice for the citizens of Siskiyou County after this brazen theft and very significant cultural and financial loss.”

Lopey said the Sheriff’s Department is seeking information about the status of the missing gold and artifacts. Some proceeds are thought to have been used to purchase high-priced items, he said.

The courthouse collection contained a variety of gold nuggets found locally. The gold was owned by the county of Siskiyou and was accumulated a little at a time by members of the Board of Supervisors through purchases and donations.

Among the missing pieces is “The Slipper,” a 28-ounce, shoe-shaped nugget found in the Scott River in 1912. The county paid $550 for the chunk in 1913. That nugget alone, if purchased today for its weight only, would be worth about $50,000.

A $50,000 reward is still being offered for the identification, arrest and conviction of the suspects involved in the heist. Those with information are asked to call the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department’s 24-hour dispatch line at (530) 841-2900.