DNA trail led cops to unlikely bike theft suspect
Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Ride? | Jacob J. Bos was a respected Longview podiatrist who, police say, kept making off with costly bikes. Says one Fremont shop owner: "He was a smooth operator."
Seattle Times staff reporter
On a drizzly day last February, a young, athletic man in hospital scrubs walked into a triathlon-supply store in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood and said he wanted to buy a very expensive bicycle, and right away.
The man said he was an oncologist, and he looked and talked the part. So the staff at Speedy Reedy Multisport set him up with a $6,800 road bike and a helmet, and he sped off for a test ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail, leaving just his name, which he said was Tony.
He also left behind a Tully's coffee cup — with "Jake" written on it.
When neither the bike nor the man returned, the store called Seattle police. They took that coffee cup and tested it for DNA, which traced back to an unlikely suspect: Jacob J. Bos, a respected 35-year-old podiatrist from Longview.
Police and prosecutors say they have connected Bos to a string of high-end bike thefts stretching across the Northwest. And in doing so, they have left his friends and colleagues befuddled at an apparent secret side to the avid bike racer.
The thefts have also jarred a clubby community of elite cyclists who once considered Bos one of their own. Now once-trusting cycle shops all over the area are going as far as to photograph customers before they grant test rides on bikes than can cost more than a lot of used cars.
"This is like a brilliant kid who has another life," said Dr. Richard Kirkpatrick, who owns the Longview medical clinic that employed Bos. "Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, it seems to me."
A hidden felony record
Bos is charged in Cowlitz County Superior Court with 12 counts of possessing or selling stolen bikes. He has pleaded not guilty. While out on $5,500 bail, Bos has twice attempted suicide, once by trying to slit his wrists and drive his car into the Kalama River, which resulted in his being detained at a psychiatric hospital in Vancouver.
Neither his attorney nor his father, who flew up from Texas to attend to his son, returned calls seeking comment.
Bos, a native of Utah, arrived in Longview in early 2006 to work in a satellite clinic run by a prominent Portland podiatrist who caters to athletes. Bos had all the right credentials: a degree from the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and a residency at a top hospital in Columbus, Ohio, according to the application he submitted for a Washington podiatrist license.
And even though some of Bos' job wasn't glamorous — such as giving annual foot exams to diabetics — he was skilled and had a good bedside manner, Kirkpatrick said.
"He was an incredibly detail-oriented person," Kirkpatrick said. "He had professional satisfaction, solid income, a great girlfriend, a very satisfying professional-level hobby. Why would anybody do that?"
Apparently, what few in Longview knew was that Bos had a felony record in Ohio. In January 2006, a month after Washington gave him a license, he pleaded guilty to theft in Columbus for using another man's identity to buy furniture on credit, according to Ohio court records.
Bos was sentenced to two years of probation; in March 2006 he paid $1,500 restitution and the probation was terminated.
Nonetheless, he was required to tell the Washington Department of Health about the conviction, but he never did, said spokeswoman Allison Cook.
About the same time, Bos started showing up at bike races in Oregon and joined the Three Rivers bike club in Longview. Police say he sold three stolen bikes to members of the club.
On the bike club's Web site, Bos is seen in a picture at an event, holding a Cervelo R3, an elite road bike.
It's the very bike he pedaled away from Speedy Reedy last February, Seattle police allege.
"A smooth operator"
Because of the Ohio conviction, Bos' DNA was in a national database that the Washington State Patrol crime lab used to link him to the Tully's cup.
Seattle police say they got lucky with the DNA test, but Longview authorities believe Seattle cops put a priority on the case.
"Seattle's a big bike-riding area, and I think they took offense," said Kevin Sawyer, a Longview police detective assigned to the case. "A lot of prosecutors and cops ride bikes, and it was one of their things."
Even as police were investigating the Fremont theft, one high-end bike after another was vanishing during test rides. In March, a $4,500 bike was ridden away from a Tacoma shop. In June, a $6,000 bike was taken from a store in Portland. In September, a shop in Bothell lost a $5,800 bike.
Bos even returned to Speedy Reedy in Fremont, according to charging papers in Cowlitz County. In December, he managed to ride off on a $5,500 Scott Plasma by talking store co-owner Reed Sillers — who wasn't on duty during the first theft — into another test ride.
"He knew what he was going to do, and knew he had us completely snowed," Sillers said. "He was a smooth operator."
"We assume better of people"
When Seattle police arrested Bos at his Longview podiatry office in mid-January, officers recognized a pair of pedals on an elite road bike, behind Bos' desk, which he used to commute, according to police reports.
The pedals were distinctive: They had come from the Cervelo R3 taken from Speedy Reedy. And the frame had been stolen from another Seattle bike shop, Triumph Multisport, just two days before police arrived.
The three bikes Bos allegedly sold to bike-club members were seized by police. When officers searched his garage, they say, they found five more stolen bikes. One was a $6,500 mountain bike taken from a shop in Utah, where Bos' ex-wife and two children live, police said.
The rash of thefts has bike enthusiasts feeling stung.
"We're a little isolated in some ways, and if you're riding a lot of miles, you're in the club," said Fred Clemens, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. "It could be the bike shops were less diligent than they could because of the level of trust in the club."
In Seattle, John Teeters, the owner of Triumph Multisport, said he won't be burned again. "We're a really small shop and know most of our customers by name, and for years," he said.
"We assume better of people. Now, I don't care if it's my brother. It's 'Sign here, give me the driver's license and credit card.' "
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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