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Level 3 offender captured

A fugitive Level 3 sex offender from Detroit Lakes has been arrested and is now in jail in Billings, Mont.

Robert Baca, 48, who was convicted of raping a Detroit Lakes woman in 1997, has skipped town at least twice before.

He had served his prison time for the original offense and the subsequent offenses of fleeing supervisory control, and was on intensive supervised probation.

His monitoring ankle bracelet had been removed May 28 as he advanced through the requirements of the program. He was living in a state-owned house for released offenders on the 300 block of Summit Avenue.

“We were notified Monday (by the Minnesota Department of Corrections) that he was not at his halfway house and he wasn’t at work (at a local turkey hatchery). They didn’t know where he was,” said Detroit Lakes Police Investigator Eric Bergren.

The Department of Corrections made random, regular checks to ensure Baca was abiding by his probation. The agent last checked on him Saturday at noon and then went on vacation.

The agent who replaced the first agent while he was on vacation didn’t check on Baca until Monday, giving Baca time to hitchhike to Minot, N.D., where he bought an Amtrak ticket to Billings, Mont.

Baca is not believed to be responsible for a vehicle that was stolen about the time he left town, Bergren said.

He was tracked down by local investigators who followed his debit card trail, Bergren said.     “We received word on June 11 that he had just used his (debit) card at a gas station-convenience store outside Billings,” Bergren said. “We notified the Billings Police Department, then found out there were seven convenience stores with the same name in the Billings area. We narrowed it down to one and asked them to check that one first. An hour later we were notified that he was in custody.”

A Yellowstone County deputy made the arrest, apparently without incident. Bergren said he hadn’t heard the details of the arrest yet and hasn’t talked to Baca, who remains in jail in Billings, which is the Yellowstone County seat.

An officer with the Minnesota Department of Corrections or the U.S. Marshals Service will likely bring Baca back to Becker County at some point to face new criminal charges for fleeing supervised probation, Bergren said.

An extradition hearing will likely be scheduled in Becker County, since a judicial order will be needed to bring him back across state lines unless he agrees to waive an extradition hearing.

Baca is not allowed to simply move out of state and notify authorities of his new address because he is still in the intensive supervised probation program, Bergren said.

“There’s a program he has to follow, and until that’s completed, he can’t do certain things, like move,” he said.

“We just want to thank the public for their tips and information they shared with us,” Bergren added. “It was a long, three-day track we put on him, and we got a lot of help and support from a lot of agencies in Montana and North Dakota to finally apprehend him.”