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Ex-convict accused of stealing Libby man's truck

Feb. 9—A Columbia Falls woman is accused of stealing a truck after an incident in November at a local bar in Libby.

Eryn Christine Jenkins, 45, is facing one felony count of theft following the alleged offense on Thanksgiving weekend.

She appeared by video in Lincoln County District Court on Jan. 29 and pleaded not guilty. She posted $40,000 bail on Dec. 22 and was released from the county jail. Her next court hearing is Feb. 26.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Libby Police Officer Donald Luthey began his investigation on Nov. 26, 2023, when the alleged victim called Lincoln County Dispatch to report a stolen vehicle.

The man told Luthey he arrived at the Pastime Bar and Lounge at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, to attend a fundraiser for a local volunteer group. The man said he parked his 2018 Toyota Tundra pickup on Mineral Avenue in front of Smoking Gun BBQ restaurant. After locking the truck, he entered the Pastime, hung his jacket on the back of a chair and laid his truck keys on the table where he and two friends sat.

At about 9:30 p.m. the alleged victim and his two friends decided to go home. He grabbed his jacket and walked to his truck before realizing he didn't have his keys. He returned to the bar, but couldn't find his keys. His friends returned to the bar to give the man a ride home.

The next morning he went back to the bar to see if any employees had found his keys. It was then he saw his truck was gone. The man told Luthey he didn't give anyone permission to take his keys or his truck. Luthey then spoke to a bar employee and the owner, who later provided video footage to the officer. The footage revealed that one of the alleged victim's friends walked to the table, grabbed her jacket and phone before picking up a set of keys from the table and placing them on the man's jacket.

Later, Luthey saw on video the alleged victim pick up his jacket and an item falls from the jacket on to the floor. The man walks from the bar and a woman who is playing pool is seen picking an item up from the floor. She walks toward a man sitting near the pool table, dangles the item and he grabs it and sticks it in his pocket.

The bar owner spoke with officer Luthey and said the woman who picked up the keys was Jenkins. He said he knew her for several years because she was a long-time customer of the bar and that she was previously a drug counselor. Luthey's investigation determined Jenkins was in a relationship with the man. It appeared he was the man Jenkins handed the keys to on the evening of Nov. 25.

Luthey's investigation got a helping hand from area business owners who had video footage of the alleged victim's truck backing out of the parking space and travel south on Mineral Avenue at about 8:51 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 26. The footage didn't reveal who was in the truck.

According to court documents, Jenkins, known then as Eryn C. Neal, has a prior conviction in Lincoln County from a 2012 case for selling methamphetamine on four different occasions. She pleaded guilty to one count of criminal distribution and received a 3-year deferred sentence.