YORK – Alexander Croghan, 25, of Broken Bow, has pleaded not guilty to attempted armed robbery, burglary and criminal mischief tied to a crime at the Yorkshire Motel in September 2012.
In court documents, police outline their investigation that led to Croghan's arrest and the eventual conviction of Cory St. Hilaire, 24, of Lincoln.
At 1:09 a.m., the morning of Sept. 20, 2012, York police officers were dispatched to the motel. The front desk clerk said St. Hilaire entered the motel and inquired about the price of a room. As the clerk was using a computer in the back manager's office, another man (who is alleged to have been Croghan) entered the back door, wearing dark clothes, gloves, ski mask and wielding a baseball bat.
Police say there was a physical struggle between the male clerk and Croghan – after which, the two men ran out the back door.
It is alleged, however, the man in the mask (allegedly Croghan) returned and broke into the motel by breaking a large glass patio door with either a large knife or a crow bar. The clerk said as Croghan allegedly entered the room, he slipped and fell in the broken glass, injuring himself. The clerk said Croghan became upset and then picked up a wooden chair and threw it at the clerk before running away.
Deputies with the sheriff's department arrived and found a white 4-door Dodge Durango parked in an area behind the motel, which was registered to a person in Broken Bow. Inside the vehicle was a marijuana bong, cell phone, electronic devices, clothing, registration, wallets, paperwork and the strong smell of marijuana. Police say they found both Croghan's and St. Hilaire's names on documents.
Investigators also said they found two sets of footprints leaving the area along the cornfield west of the motel. They searched the fields and ditches and found a black stocking cap.
On Sept. 20, St. Hilaire turned himself in at the York Police Department. He said he was involved in an attempted robbery at the motel.
Meanwhile, at approximately 6 a.m., on Sept. 20, local mission workers said a man walked into their facility and said he “had been running through cornfields since 1 a.m.” Court documents say the mission workers reported the man was cut up and bloody and they allowed him to use a phone to call someone to pick him up.
Later that day, an off-duty officer with the Broken Bow Police Department was contacted by a woman who said Croghan was with her in Broken Bow and he was a suspect in a burglary that had taken place in York the night before.
The woman and Croghan, according to court documents, went to the Broken Bow Police Department where officers confirmed that Croghan was injured when he arrived.
Investigators say he told the Broken Bow officers he and St. Hilaire had gone to York where they met up with a third man (who he didn't know) and they “smoked a bowl.”
Croghan allegedly told police he got out of the pickup to urinate “when the third man attacked him. He said the third man got a bat and hit him with it. He also said the man cut his arm with a machete.”
But investigators argue in the written affidavit that Croghan used the “third man theory” to explain his injuries, “which were consistent with cutting himself in the glass and fighting with the motel clerk.”
Croghan told officers he took off running into the cornfield “because he wasn't sure if the third man was chasing him. Then he said he was being hunted by a mountain lion through the fields. He said he ended up in a homeless shelter in Kearney, where they took his clothes and shoes, which were all covered in [expletive].”
The phone call made at the York mission was traced to the woman accompanying Croghan to the Broken Bow Police Department and the shoes Croghan left behind at the mission matched the footprints behind the motel.
There has been difficulty getting Croghan into custody and before a judge for arraignment. Prosecutors say he ran to Oklahoma and had to be expedited to face these charges in York County.
A trial has been set for May 21.
If Croghan is convicted, he could be facing a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Croghan's attorney, Matthew Watson, asked for his client's bond to be reduced.
“It's now $75,000, 10 percent and we are asking for a reduction,” Watson said. “He has a place to live in Lincoln and employment has been arranged.”
“The state's position remains the same,” said York County Attorney Candace Dick. “We consider him to be a significant flight risk – he was aware of these charges and had been interviewed by police in Broken Bow. Then he and his girlfriend left the state, went to Oklahoma and we had to extradite him and provide him transportation back to York County. The charges are serious and it was a violent offense.”
Judge Stecker agreed and denied a bond reduction.