HAMILTON – A shoeprint helped detectives find their suspect in a Daly Mansion burglary.
Mitchell James Gouse, 18, was charged Friday with felony burglary for breaking in and stealing a tiger pelt from the Daly Mansion outside Hamilton.
Ravalli County sheriff’s deputies were alerted to the break-in early Thursday morning when they got a call that the alarm had gone off in the mansion’s east trophy room, according to court records.
When Deputy Robert Smith responded, he noticed a red Ford Mustang outside the mansion gate. A trace of the license plate showed it belonged to Gouse’s father, Frank. And when asked, Frank said his son had taken the car the previous evening and had not returned.
A Daly Mansion associate discovered that a large tiger pelt had been removed from the trophy room wall. No other items appeared to be missing.
Detectives started their investigation on the road near the Mustang. They found indications in the grass nearby that someone had entered the property where the tall wrought-iron fence of the entry becomes a low split-rail fence. They followed the trail as it veered toward the long mansion driveway and found the tiger pelt hanging in a tree near the driveway midpoint.
Footprints were evident leading from the mansion to the tree with the tiger pelt. The prints were those of court shoes with a distinctive circular pattern. The same prints were found on the mansion deck. The detectives took photos of the prints.
Frank Gouse called the sheriff’s office when his son returned home Thursday afternoon. Mitchell Gouse denied being at the mansion when he was brought in for questioning. He claimed the Mustang had broken down near the mansion, so he walked back to a Hamilton park where he sat for several hours.
During questioning, detectives observed Mitchell was wearing court shoes with a circular pattern on the sole, according to court records, so they arrested him. Later, Mitchell called his dad from the detention center and confessed to the burglary. Detectives recorded the call.
On Friday, the state asked Ravalli County Justice of the Peace Jim Bailey for a bail of only $2,500.
Gouse lives with his parents, who were in the courtroom, and defense attorney Carol Johns requested that he be released on his own recognizance. She mentioned that Gouse had a juvenile criminal history, but has held a job for a month.
“I think the prosecutor’s office is being very generous with a $2,500 bond, but I will follow their recommendation,” Bailey said.
Gouse must appear in district court on July 13 or 14.
Reporter Laura Lundquist can be reached at 363-3300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why isn’t anyone asking why the Daly Mansion has possession of an endangered species that has been turned into a wall covering?