STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A 60-year-old man who was arrested in Steamboat Springs for offering candy to children and inviting them to his campsite at a local campground has been released from Routt County Jail.
The man, who was staying at the KOA Campground on the west end of town, was booked into the jail June 29 on suspicion of enticing children, a felony, according to an arrest affidavit obtained from the Routt County Justice Center.
A judge ordered the man’s immediate release after determining there was no probable cause he committed a crime, according to justice officials.
Steamboat Springs Police Department officers responded to a report of a disturbance at the campground the evening of June 29. Employees there wanted help evicting the man from the property after several guests complained about his behavior toward children.
At least three witnesses spoke with officers about the incident. Penny Leon, a Front Range resident, was visiting Steamboat with her daughter and grandchildren, ages 8 and 5.
According to Leon, the man approached the two children and asked them to come with him to his tent, where he claimed to have a plastic container of Skittles.
“That absolutely made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” Leon said.
She refused to allow her grandchildren to follow the man and kept close watch over them.
“It made us all very uncomfortable,” Leon said.
She also saw the man approach several boys and girls at the campground’s swimming pool.
She overheard him tell the children, “I know secrets that adults can’t know,” which is corroborated in the arrest affidavit. The secret was the container of Skittles at his campsite.
When officers confronted him, he claimed he was offering the candy to the kids because it’s his favorite.
“He stated he was going to leave the container outside all day and night and any kid who wanted some could come by and grab as much as they wanted,” according to the affidavit.
About three children took some candy without their parents around, the man claimed, but they did not go inside his tent.
When officers asked the man if he saw anything wrong in his offering candy to young children without their parents around, he appeared shocked, according to the affidavit, claiming he only wanted to speak with them.
Based on this information, officers believed they had probable cause to arrest the man and take him into custody. A judge disagreed and ordered his immediate release from jail, according to justice officials, claiming there was not enough evidence to arrest him.
In an email, District Attorney Matt Karzen said his office is conducting an investigation of the case. An internal review is scheduled for July 22, according to justice officials.
The man’s name is being withheld because he was not formally charged with a crime.