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For the week of April 10 - 16 , 2002


Local fugitive on marijuana charge nabbed in Colorado

Express Staff Writer

A "notorious fugitive" from Blaine County, wanted here on a marijuana trafficking charge, was arrested in Colorado last week on numerous FBI interstate warrants.

According to a press release from the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, John Leo Sladek, 43, was arrested April 3 with four others on local felony charges of cultivation and distribution of marijuana. A search of Sladek’s house and a rented storage shed turned up "a large amount" of marijuana and $25,000 in cash.

The sparsely populated county lies west of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, south of Salida.

A felony trafficking charge had been filed against Sladek in Blaine County in 1997 following the discovery of a growing operation at a house he had rented in Hidden Hollow, north of Hailey. He was charged Feb. 4 with growing 122 marijuana plants.

Four rooms in the house had been converted into grow rooms, complete with duct ventilation systems, powerful grow lamps and an irrigation system. Police said stolen electricity meters had apparently been periodically installed to reduce the electricity consumption recorded on the original meter.

According to Sheriff Walt Femling, Sladek escaped arrest because he happened to be leaving on vacation in his car and passed sheriff’s deputies on their way to the house to execute a search warrant.

"He’s a notorious fugitive that we’ve been chasing since 1997," Femling said. "We’re happy to have him behind bars."

Sladek is also wanted by authorities in Taos County, N.M., and Nevada County, Calif.

According to Bill Hubbard, chief investigator for New Mexico’s 8th Judicial District, Sladek was charged there in April 1996 with two felony counts of distributing marijuana. Hubbard said Sladek posted an $80,000 cash bond brought in small bills in jars, then disappeared. He said police had placed marijuana allegedly belonging to Sladek in a rented storage unit, but the unit was broken into and the marijuana stolen while Sladek was in custody.

Sladek fled Blaine County about a year later, then turned up near Lake Tahoe, Calif. According to Sgt. Steve Mason with the Nevada County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department, authorities there attempted to arrest Sladek in April 2000 after he was identified from fingerprints on his driver’s license. Mason said that at the conclusion of a 30-mile car chase, Sladek suddenly slammed on his brakes and put his car into reverse, ramming a California Highway Patrol car and disabling it. Sladek fled on foot.

"That was the last we’ve seen of him," Mason said.

He said a subsequent search of Sladek’s home north of Nevada City turned up a "very sophisticated" indoor and outdoor marijuana growing operation composed of 133 plants, as well as 10 pounds of processed marijuana. He was charged with felony cultivation and possession.

Femling said Sladek will likely be tried first in Colorado since he is in custody there. Beyond that, he said, "we’ll just have to work that out among the jurisdictions."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.