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Level 3 sex offender cuts ankle bracelet, skips town -- caught by DL police in Pelican Rapids

Robert Baca

After a three-hour manhunt -- including about 90 minutes of public help -- Level 3 predatory offender Robert Baca was arrested in Pelican Rapids by Detroit Lakes police shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday night.

"We had our plain clothes guy down there (in Pelican Rapids) with copies of the fact sheet and he started snooping around and caught him," said Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena.

He was arrested without incident.

"I have no idea how he got there -- I haven't interviewed him yet," Keena added.

Keena said community help was key to the speedy capture, and he thanked the public for all of the information phoned in to police in response.

"Public input was key -- we knew he'd be on foot and he'd be sighted," he said. "We used the Instant Alert Plus system and we went on the radio right away. Those two things generated a lot of reports of sightings and we kind of had him pinned down -- we knew he was headed south on Highway 59," Keena said.

"He had asked people for a ride to Pelican Rapids, so we knew his destination."

At about 5:30 p.m., the Detroit Lakes Police Department sent out an Instant Alert message asking residents to help locate Baca.

"Detroit Lakes Police were notified at 3:38 p.m. today that Level 3 predatory offender Robert Baca's GPS bracelet tamper alarm had been activated," the Instant Alert message said. (He had cut the ankle bracelet off, Keena said). "Baca's last known location was the 500 block of Summit Avenue north. We are asking the public's assistance in locating Baca."

Law enforcement officers from all around the area came to Detroit Lakes to help. Assistance was provided by Lake Park, Audubon, Frazee, Pelican Rapids, the State Patrol, Otter Tail County, the State Department of Corrections, and of course Becker County and Detroit Lakes.

"We had cops all over town chasing down leads and sightings," Keena said. "I had my entire staff in -- we just dog-piled it and got him."

Officers scoured the city looking for Baca. They checked buses, asked Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to have its employees keep an eye out for him trying to jump a train, checked the library and other public places, and asked retailers including Central Market and Walmart to have employees be on the alert for him.

Baca, 44, was released from prison on Monday and moved into a residence on the 300 block of Summit Avenue.

It wasn't the first time Baca caused a stir in Detroit Lakes. The first time was in 2008, when he announced his intention to move to Detroit Lakes after serving his entire sentence of 111 months for raping a woman and threatening to kill her, according to court records.

In 2008, he left town almost immediately, on a bus bound for the Twin Cities, but failed to check in with Minneapolis police as required.

He was later arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service in California.

He served a second sentence for failing to register as a predatory offender, and was released Monday, again after announcing his intention to live in Detroit Lakes.

At about 7:40 p.m. today Baca was being booked into the Becker County Jail.

Keena said he expects Baca will now serve the remaining third of his prison sentence, as well as face new charges associated with today's events.

"He violated the conditions of his release -- his prison sentence is not over yet, it was two-thirds over, the rest was (to be served on) supervised release. Now he'll go back to prison for the remainder, plus new charges."