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Suspect surrenders in million-dollar gold heist at California courthouse

Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office via AP

David Dean Johnson in a booking photo from the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office. He and an accomplice are accused of stealing $1.2 million worth of gold and jewelry last year from the county courthouse.

A San Francisco-area  man surrendered and was being held on $1 million bail in connection with the theft of $1.2 million in gold and jewelry from a Northern California county courthouse, authorities said Tuesday.

David Dean Johnson, 49, of El Cerrito, Calif., was being held at the Siskiyou County jail on burglary charges after he turned himself into sheriff's deputies shortly before midnight Monday, jail records showed.

In a heist straight out of Wild West lore, Johnson and Scott Wayne Bailey, 51, of El Sobrante, Calif., allegedly broke into a display of historic gold pieces and jewelry at the county courthouse in Yreka — a small town on the edge of Klamath National Forest about 30 miles south of the Oregon state line — early last year, the sheriff's office said. 

Surveillance video showed two masked men breaking into the courthouse the night of Jan. 31, 2012, but no alarm sounded because it had been sabotaged, sheriff's deputies and Yreka police said at the time.

"We still have a lot of work to do in this case," Sheriff Jon Lopey said, because Bailey remains at large, as does the $1,257,500 worth of gold, jewelry and artifacts that was taken. He said a $50,000 reward was still available for Bailey's arrest.

Lopey said in a statement that after absconding with the loot, the suspects fenced some of it and used the money to purchase other "high-value" items. Arrest warrants were issued for Johnson and Bailey after detectives traveled to homes in Redding, Shasta Lake, El Cerrito and El Sobrante — all in the San Francisco Bay Area — to serve search warrants.

"These thieves stole a part of Siskiyou County history, which represents the hard work, sacrifice, traditions and pioneer spirit which characterizes the personality of Siskiyou County and its citizens — past and present," Lopey said.

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