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Amtrak depot has weekend break-in

By Sue Sitter - | Jan 30, 2021

Submitted Photo Cases displaying historical items in the Rugby Amtrak depot sustained damage in a break-in the morning of Jan. 24.

A staffer and volunteer at Rugby’s Amtrak depot discovered a crime scene the morning of Jan. 24 after noticing a smashed door and broken glass on the floor of the waiting area.

Dale Niewoehner, a local business owner who advocates for Amtrak, said he discovered the mess when he visited after the westbound Empire Builder had left the station, about 8 a.m.

“I saw a gentleman waiting for a ride,” Niewoehner related. “He’d gotten off the train in the morning. I walked to the west side of the building and saw yellow police tape. Then, I saw glass on the floor. I looked around a little bit and went around to talk to this guy. I said, ‘What’s going on here?’ He said, ‘The police were here a little bit ago. There was a Burlington-Northern truck here a little bit ago and I think they called the police.'”

“I looked around and could see there were some things missing,” Niewoehner added. “Of course, I got kind of upset.”

“I called the police and said, ‘Why don’t you come over here and let’s talk about this?'” Niewoehner said. “The police came and looked around.”

“I saw two of the items (that had been on display) lying on the floor in the phone booth – you know the old-fashioned phone booth in the depot? They were there. So, I said to the officer, ‘Here are two items that came out of the case and he took pictures of them and put gloves on and said, ‘I think there are fingerprints on one of these.'”

Niewoehner said he called the former depot agent, Duane Veach, whose wife serves as the depot’s caretaker.

“I asked, ‘how do you suppose this happened?'” Niewoehner said. “He said, ‘Well, I unlocked the station at 5:30,’ because he was at work in Minot yesterday morning.”

Niewoehner said Veach told him the door was not damaged when he unlocked it.

“There were wood splinters and the lock was (damaged),” Niewoehner said. “The door was very old.”

Niewoehner said Veach would contact his supervisors. “Amtrak detectives got involved,” he added.

Niewoehner did his best to sort through a mess of broken glass and leaves that had been plucked from potted plants in the building. He noticed a few artifacts from the display case were missing.

“One thing I know is missing is a very old telegraph key that was given to me by a man who used to live in the Haaland Home. He’s been dead for 25 years,” Niewoehner said.

Rugby Police Officer David Wermerskirchen and Officer Jeremiah Farmer responded to the scene. “It was right at shift change,” Wermerskirchen said. “The door was busted in. It looked like someone had kicked it in. The deadbolt was missing. Plants were destroyed. The display case was broken into and there was glass everywhere. Some items were misplaced. Some items were in the phone booth. It was really weird.”

“I thought it was (a case of) vandalism and theft,” Wermerskirchen said. “It’s pretty hard (to identify a suspect). There were no cameras or anything,” he added. “There was a shoe print on one of the broken glass pieces and a couple of fingerprints, but those aren’t very good. That part is kind of hard to tell.”

“I don’t know if they’re going to move forward with an investigation, but we’ll see,” Wermerskirchen noted. “Like I said, the door was broken into; the display case was damaged.”

“My wife and I went up there to clean this up and we thought of how horrible it must feel to have your home burglarized – someone coming and looking for stuff and destroying things – dumping stuff out – what a horrible feeling,” Niewoehner said of the scene.

“This was bad enough, but it’s not that big compared to a home or something. It’s the violation people feel,” he added. “And what enjoyment does anybody get out of this?”

“It’s a shame,” Wermerskirchen said. “Hopefully (the suspect) was no one local.”

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