Alleged thief has no leg to stand on

A suspected thief who bolted from a Cedaredge restaurant with a wad of cash earlier this week would have done well to heed the advice every child receives: Look both ways before you cross the street.

Because he didn’t, police say 26-year-old Jebidiah Delhagen of Delta ended up with a shattered leg, a multi-day stay in the hospital and felony charges forthcoming.

And Connie Freeman has a story she can laugh about now.

As she normally does after closing, the owner of Connie’s Family Restaurant in Cedaredge was cleaning her kitchen Monday afternoon. The restaurant had closed about 10 minutes earlier. According to Freeman, a man walked in through an open back door and asked for Melissa. Freeman’s daughter, Melissa Norton, works as a waitress at the restaurant.

Freeman said she called for her daughter and returned to cleaning. The man said he would wait outside for her. Before leaving, though, he grabbed a stack of cash off a prep table and ran out. Freeman estimated it was $2,400 — a couple days’ worth of earnings.

The man darted around the corner and headed for Colorado Highway 65, which the restaurant fronts, with Freeman and Norton in pursuit.

“I said, ‘Hey! Stop!’ And then I said a couple other choice words you don’t want to print,” Freeman said Thursday. “He turned around and looked at me” — and ran into the side of a car heading north on the highway.

The man, later identified as Delhagen, crumpled to the ground. Money scattered all over the road. Freeman said the man tried to hop away on one leg but didn’t get very far.

“He laid there and moaned and groaned,” Freeman said.

She flagged down a Cedaredge police officer, who happened to be heading south on the highway about the same time Delhagen was hit.

“The man was still crawling out of the road,” said Cedaredge Police Chief Dan Sanders.

Said Freeman: “He’s (Delhagen) laying there, saying, ‘Call an ambulance!’ The cop told him to shut up, you got what you deserved.”

Sanders said Delhagen was taken to Delta County Memorial Hospital with a broken leg. He said he believes Delhagen was released Wednesday.

The police chief said he will ask the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to issue Delhagen a summons. Potential charges include second-degree burglary and theft.

Sanders said police are still investigating the incident and looking at the possibility that other people were involved in the theft. He said Freeman told police a vehicle may have dropped off Delhagen.

They’re also checking into a possible bizarre twist: that Delhagen was, in fact, looking for a woman named Melissa — but not Freeman’s daughter.

Sanders said Delhagen told police he and some friends had been partying the night before at a Cedaredge park with a woman named Melissa, and he went looking for her Monday.

As it turns out, Sanders said, there’s a Melissa Horton who works at a bakery in Cedaredge.

Melissa Norton, on the other hand, works at the restaurant.

“It is very random. That is his story, he’s stuck to it,” Sanders said of Delhagen’s account of partying with a woman named Melissa. He said he doesn’t know whether it’s true.

Freeman said the restaurant has been burglarized before in her 16 years of ownership, but never while anyone was there.

She said she had a bad feeling when Delhagen walked in the back door.

“I know most of my daughter’s friends,” she said. “I don’t recognize this dude from anywhere.”

Sanders said the couple whose vehicle collided with Delhagen were upset they hit someone. He then told them what happened.

“The guy said, ‘Then I’m a hero,’ ” Sanders said. “I said, ‘For today, you are, sir.’ ”


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