An Oregon State Police traffic stop of a Jeep driving without headlights on Highway 97 in Redmond Wednesday night led police to a Prineville home, where the Jeep’s owner 73-year-old Leo Novak had been left tied tightly to a kitchen chair, Crook County sheriff’s deputies said.
"I thought he was going to kill me, absolutely," said Novak told NewsChannel 21 Thursday, back home from the hospital. "He put a 9mm right up to my forehead. He wanted my PIN numbers for my credit cards, and I told him I don't use PIN numbers, I don't use it for cash, I use them as a credit card. Well, he didn't really buy that."
OSP Trooper Josh Nagle stopped a white 2008 Jeep Wrangler around 9:40 p.m. for driving without headlights and made contact with the driver, identified as Skyler Suchdolski, 20, of Prineville, said sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Chapman.
The trooper became suspicious of the driver and the Jeep’s contents, asking Suchdolski about who owned the vehicle. He told the trooper he’d borrowed the car from the owner, which came back as registered to Novak, of Prineville, Chapman said.
"I didn't know him (Suchodolski) very well," Novak said. "He did a little bit of work, and he's a friend of a couple people up the street."
Nagle spotted an empty pistol holster in the car and asked Suchdolski about weapons in the car, then spotted a pistol under the front seat and placed the driver in handcuffs, Chapman said.
The trooper then contacted Crook County dispatch and asked that they send an officer to do a welfare check at Novak’s home on Willowdale Drive.
Prineville police Officer Jordan Zamora and sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Neely responded to the house, knocked and got no response, Chapman said. So they continued checking and looked in the kitchen window to find Novak tied to a kitchen chair.
"I couldn't get out of that for nothing. Everything was too tight," said Novak. "I thought he was going to kill me, absolutely."
The two officers entered the home and removed the ligatures from Novak’s hands, which were bound behind him and tied to the chair. Chapman said Novak’s hands were badly swollen, to the size of grapefruits, and bleeding near the ligature marks.
Crook County Fire and Rescue medics were called to take Novak to Pioneer Memorial Hospital, where the attending ER doctor.
"The doctor had told deputies if he had been there for much longer, he would have had to have his hand amputated," said Crook County Undersheriff John Goutney.
Novak told officers he’d been bound by Suchdolski nearly five hours earlier, after the two of them had sat and visited in Novak’s home, Chapman said. He said he was unsure why the visitor had tied him up.
"We were sitting at the table, no problems, no arguments, no nothing," Novak said, describing Suchodolski's visit to his house. "All of a sudden, he says, 'Lay down on the floor,' and he pushed me down and handcuffed me."
Novak told officers Suchodolski then took a semi-automatic handgun, placed it to his head and threatened to kill him several times over the next couple of hours.
According to Novak, Suchodolski left the home, only to return later and go through the house stealing coins, firearms and ammunition, then loading them into his Jeep.
"He stole all my guns. He stole all my money," said Novak. "I had about $2,000, which was destined for the bank."
Suchdolski was lodged at the county jail on charges including first-degree robbery, kidnapping and burglary, four counts of first-degree theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, coercion, second-degree assault and menacing. Bail was st at $215,000, Chapman said.