by April Scheinoha
A Thief River Falls man was sentenced Friday, Feb. 23 in Pennington County District Court for his role in a 2017 burglary and assault case in which two St. Hilaire men were assaulted.
John Wayne Balderston, 40, was sentenced to 71 months in prison for a felony charge of aiding and abetting a first degree burglary. He was given credit for 86 days served. A lifetime firearms ban was ordered unless Balderston’s civil rights are restored. He was also ordered to pay $210 in fees and fines. The state has 30 days to file a certificate of restitution. Balderston has 60 days to object to that certificate if he so chooses.
Balderston had pled guilty to the charge three days earlier. At the beginning of the sentencing hearing, Judge Tamara Yon said Balderston was in a hurry to complete sentencing.
In a plea agreement, the following charges were dismissed: two felony offenses of aiding and abetting a second degree assault, two offenses of aiding and abetting a third degree assault, and a felony offense of aiding and abetting a first degree aggravated robbery.
At the time of this case, Balderston was on probation for a gross misdemeanor charge of fifth degree controlled substance crime. One year in jail was initially stayed in connection with that case. On Friday, Yon executed the one-year jail sentence, which is to be served concurrently with the above aiding and abetting charge. Credit was granted for time served.
As part of the plea agreement, a third case was dismissed. That case involved charges of felony fifth degree controlled substance crime and misdemeanor theft.
Three other people have been charged in connection with the assault and burglary case. Guadalupe Francisco Peralta, 27, Thief River Falls, has pled guilty to a felony charge of aiding and abetting a first degree burglary and two felony charges of aiding and abetting a third degree assault. Sentencing has been set for Monday, March 5.
James Michael Dahlin, 32, Thief River Falls, and James Richard Shaugabay, 26, St. Hilaire, have also been charged in connection with the case. Dahlin has been charged with felony offenses of aiding and abetting first degree aggravated robbery, aiding and abetting aggravated robbery, aiding and abetting second degree assault (two counts), and aiding and abetting third degree assault (two counts). Shaugabay has been charged with a felony offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Their cases are also proceeding through the court system.
The assaults were reported Monday, Nov. 27 at 9:23 a.m. at a St. Hilaire mobile home court. A group allegedly assaulted two men inside their home with a shotgun and a jack wrench. They were later treated and released from Sanford Medical Center in Thief River Falls.
The sheriff’s investigator arrived to find a victim lying on the sidewalk. A large amount of blood was coming from his head. He identified Peralta as one of the assailants, saying that Peralta’s “mask” came off during the assault. The investigator saw marks on the second man’s head.
Both men said they were sleeping when several people entered their mobile home. One man was asleep on the couch when the people began assaulting him. At one point, he threw one of the assailants, causing damage there. (The home has since been destroyed in a fire believed to be related to the use of a space heater.)
The other man was asleep in a bedroom when he awoke to the commotion. He was later hit numerous times on the top of his head.
A complaint indicated that some cash had been stolen after the assaults. Peralta allegedly told law enforcement that Dahlin had a substantial drug debt and wanted to steal some money to pay off the debt. Peralta said items, including four boxes of ammunition, were stolen from the home.
Peralta told law enforcement that Dahlin and Balderston assaulted the men. All three assailants hid their faces. Peralta said Dahlin wore a mask, and the other two wore bandanas.
Peralta, Dahlin, Balderston and Shaugabay were linked to the assaults after law enforcement obtained surveillance videos. Surveillance video from both a neighbor’s home and Kruse In showed a white Chevy Equinox in the area at the time of the assaults.
A search warrant was executed for Shaugabay’s rental home and garage at 12099 Center St. E., St. Hilaire, according to the complaints. Inside the garage, law enforcement found a white Chevy Equinox with blood on the bumper. A rag was used to conceal the license plate number, and a mask was found inside the vehicle. The mask matched a description provided by Peralta. Also in the garage, law enforcement found an assault-style shotgun and multiple clothing items, all of which had blood on them. Law enforcement located Shaugabay, Peralta and Dahlin in the home.
Shaugabay’s girlfriend allegedly said that Dahlin had given her a pair of shoes that he said he had worn during the robbery. She said he was relieved that law enforcement hadn’t found the shoes during a search of the home. Dahlin told her that the three men had entered the home and he had hit a victim in the head with a shotgun. Dahlin told her that the man then began crawling across the floor. The investigator had earlier seen pictures of a blood trail in the mobile home.
According to a criminal complaint, Shaugabay said Dahlin and Balderston had been at his home a night earlier. Shaugabay said Peralta had been called to help “rip off” another person. Peralta said Dahlin called him, seeking his help in obtaining a shotgun from Balderston. However, Peralta said he didn’t get the shotgun because he thought Dahlin was an informant who was setting him up.
Peralta said Dahlin picked him up in the Chevy Equinox the next morning. They traveled to Shaugabay’s home, where they met Balderston. Shaugabay said he awoke to a car door being closed outside of his home. He saw the other three men carrying a duffle bag and then leaving in the Equinox. They later returned to Shaugabay’s home. Dahlin and Peralta, who were out of breath, went inside the home. Balderston left in another vehicle that turned west out of the driveway. Law enforcement later found a hat and bandana on a gravel road in the general direction in which Balderston traveled.
Peralta said the Equinox was parked in Shaugabay’s garage, where Dahlin placed clothes in a cabinet. Dahlin hid the shotgun in the garage and placed the mask in the Equinox. Then he and Dahlin went inside Shaugabay’s home.
The Chevy Equinox was registered to a woman, who initially told law enforcement that her vehicle was parked in a garage since the night prior to the assaults. Later, she allegedly said Dahlin had driven her to the casino and then left with her vehicle.