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Can't Buy a Thrill

Aspen's bizarre crime spree sent some of its favorite sons to prison -- and left the town wondering what went wrong.

I hear some spray that I'm weak or I'm phony

Thinking I'm weak just because I look bony

But they can't hold me my heart is getting cold C

Aspen school superintendent Tom Farrell visited several of the robbers in jail: "Every little kid in town knew who they were."The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.Raoul Wille (right), Cody's father, was a legendary risk-taker who died in the Himalayas. Following her son's arrest, Kim Wille (above) embarked on a quest to bring restorative justice programs to the Roaring Fork Valley.His first burglary was such a rush that Yuri Ognacevic agreed to be the wheel man on an armed robbery.Jacob Richards (top) helped Moses Greengrass (center) and others plan the Clark's Market robbery. Two weeks later, Wade Hammond (bottom) joined Greengrass in a similar robbery in Snowmass.
Aspen school superintendent Tom Farrell visited several of the robbers in jail: "Every little kid in town knew who they were."The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.Raoul Wille (right), Cody's father, was a legendary risk-taker who died in the Himalayas. Following her son's arrest, Kim Wille (above) embarked on a quest to bring restorative justice programs to the Roaring Fork Valley.His first burglary was such a rush that Yuri Ognacevic agreed to be the wheel man on an armed robbery.Jacob Richards (top) helped Moses Greengrass (center) and others plan the Clark's Market robbery. Two weeks later, Wade Hammond (bottom) joined Greengrass in a similar robbery in Snowmass.
The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.
Brett Amole
The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.

I'll knock out your teeth just for the gold G...

The first time Stage 3 was robbed, Moses boasted to Yuri that he was the culprit. The second time, nobody had to tell Yuri that it was Moses and two of his buds. "I figured it was them the minute I saw the paper," Yuri says. "They were the only ones who would do it."

Yuri was curious what it felt like, to pull a job like that. It seemed like everyone he knew had worked for places in town, shops that kept a lot of cash on hand and were pretty careless about it. It was becoming a popular topic of conversation -- different ways to knock off a place, special tools you might need, whether any of the employees might try to play hero, how to make an inside job look like a random burglary.

Late one night during the Fourth of July weekend, Yuri showed up outside Cody's bedroom window with a seventeen-year-old juvenile (not named here because his case went to juvenile court). They asked to borrow a pair of bolt cutters, one of several the group had found in their foraging of mine sites and tool sheds in the mountains. The two rode their bikes from Cody's to the deserted parking lot of Take 2, a video-rental store where Yuri used to work.

Yuri's key no longer worked in the main entrance. That was cool; he wanted to make it look like a break-in, anyway. He told the juvenile to watch for cops, broke the glass door with the bolt cutters, ran around the counter and snipped the padlock on a wooden money box. They were on their bikes, headed home, in seconds. Yuri gave half of the $2,650 he stole to the juvenile.

"It was quick cash, easy money," Yuri recalls. "But the thrill was 90 percent of it. Robbery, burglary -- it's a rush. I didn't need the money. I could use it, but I didn't need it...I figured the owner was insured. I liked her."

Yuri and the juvenile decided they weren't going to make the mistake of bragging about their crime. But they were so tight-lipped that Moses grew suspicious. When Moses told them it was obvious who had done Take 2, Yuri admitted it.

A few weeks later, on the night of August 4, Moses and Jacob Richards took a run at Take 2 themselves, with a key borrowed from Alex Cassatt, who still worked there. But Alex's key didn't work, either, and the haul was only $450 this time.

That same night, egged on by Moses and Jacob, Alex and Cody went looking for adventure, too. Accounts vary as to the exact sequence of events, but it's undisputed that Alex waited in the car while Cody, the just-say-no kid, smashed the window of a liquor store and emerged with as much booze as he could carry.

The Clark's Market robbery went down the following night. Jacob Richards, who'd worked at the market, had given Moses the inside dope on where the money was kept and other key details. Cody says that Moses and Stefan Schutter approached him and Yuri about joining them in the heist only hours beforehand. They'd hoped to enlist others, they said, but some of the older youths were out of town at the moment, and the score promised to be juicy.

Yuri said he'd drive but wouldn't go inside. Cody figured if his bro Yuri was going, he'd go, too. Armed robbery is a quantum leap from a smash-and-grab at a liquor store, but Cody had decided to take it. He was facing some temporary financial setbacks -- an irregular allowance, a trip to a music seminar in Atlantic City he didn't know how he was going to pay for, his mother in the midst of a complicated bankruptcy -- but there were other concerns, too. Later, he would declare to the court that there were 25 reasons for what he did, "but not one excuse."

"I was in a very weird frame of mind," Cody says now. "All my friends were leaving to go away to college. All my friends were screwing up right then. Me and my mom were in bad arguments. I was just pissed off at the whole world."

"I think Cody lost his mind for 24 hours," says Kim Wille. "He wanted to do one last, legendary thing with his friends before they left him behind."

Yuri went in first. He scoped out the place, came back out -- and ran into Alex Cassatt, who was just closing up Take 2. He strongly suggested that Alex might want to vacate the vicinity. Alex booked. Yuri hid in the bushes, watching people filter out of the supermarket, then called his crew, who were waiting with a cell phone in Yuri's Jeep Cherokee a short distance away.

"If you guys are going to do it, now's a good time," he said.

The robbery went off without a hitch, except for the way Cody kept freezing up and lagging behind. Yuri had a police scanner in the Cherokee, and they were already pulling up at Cody's place with the loot by the time the 911 call went out. Jacob and Alex were in the Green Room, listening to another scanner. They didn't say anything. They didn't have to. Anyone could look in the feverish, totally wired eyes of these desperadoes and see what they were about. They were stoked.

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