Va. man sentenced to 8-20 years for DuBois robberies|
Thursday, November 7, 2013
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
Austin C. Eheart, 20, of Palmyra, Va., who was involved in two robberies in the DuBois-Sandy Township area, pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to a total of eight to 20 years in prison by President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman at yesterday's session of sentencing court.
Eheart made an open plea and did not reach a plea agreement with the commonwealth and left it up to the judge to decide his sentence.
Eheart apologized to the victims and accepted responsibility for his actions and said he did not know a weapon, a knife, was used in one of the robberies.
Eheart said he said he was down on his luck had moved to the area after losing his job in Virginia and "fell in with the wrong crowd" but accepted responsibility for his actions saying no one forced him to do these crimes and he apologized.
His attorney Chris Pentz of Clearfield said because of the "horrifying" nature of the crime his client would likely serve 85 percent of his maximum and asked Ammerman for leniency saying Eheart was never in trouble before and is truly remorseful for what had happened.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, at approximately 6 a.m. on June 15, Eheart along with Jeffrey Sprague of Verona and Eric Britton of Falls Creek broke into a residence along Thunderbird Road in Sandy Township and threatened the man and woman both 72-years old who lived there. The male is also disabled and is confined to a wheelchair.
The victims told police they were sleeping when the men, wearing blue bandanas, entered their home and forced them into a bedroom.
One of the robbers stayed in the bedroom with them to keep them there while the other two rummaged through the home.
The man in the bedroom told the victims he didn't want to hurt them and asked them where they kept the money but the victims said he didn't display any weapons. The man also repeatedly told the male victim to calm down his wife. The three then fled the scene on foot after removing $1,000 in cash from a safe. Before leaving the men told them not to call the police for 10 minutes.
Sandy Township police responded and discovered that the men broke a window to gain access to the home and that one of them (Eheart) had injured himself on the glass when he entered.
Eyewitnesses and video surveillance at a nearby residence put Eheart in the area at the time of the robbery.
The investigation also revealed that the three men also fit the description of an earlier robbery that occurred on South Main Street in DuBois City.
In that case, on June 12 at approximately 1 a.m., the male victim was home at his residence at Grove Place, DuBois City when he was awoken by the female victim who said someone was outside hitting his car with a baseball bat.
He said he went outside to look and when he came back inside three men followed him in the door. Two of them had blue bandanas over their face. The third man had his face uncovered and he said they knew him and his name was Jeffrey Allen Sprague. The female said she went to high school with Sprague.
The male victim said the two men wearing bandanas started punching him.
The male victim ran upstairs but the two men followed him where they resumed punching and kicking him.
The male victim said he was eventually forced back downstairs where Sprague began punching and kicking him while he was lying on the floor trying to protect himself.
The female told police that after the three men entered Sprague told the two men wearing bandanas to "get" the male victim and they started hitting him. The male victim then ran upstairs but the two followed him and resumed their assault.
Sprague remained downstairs with her and he told her it was nothing against her but said she needed to go upstairs so she wouldn't call the police.
The woman said she tried to reason with Sprague and told him her son was sleeping upstairs, but Sprague then pulled a knife out, pointed it at her, grabbed her by the arm and led her upstairs.
Once upstairs she saw the two men in bandanas attacking the male victim in the bedroom. Sprague then went into the bedroom and began punching the male victim in the face repeatedly.
The male victim was then forced back downstairs where Sprague hit and kicked him in the face repeatedly while the male victim lay on the floor.
Sprague then said "there better not be any cops or this won't be over."
The three men then began looking for the keys to the male victim's car and left once they found them.
When police arrived they said the male victim's face was swollen and covered in blood.
On June 18, police received a tip that Sprague was at a Washington Avenue residence where he was arrested along with Eheart. When he was arrested, Eheart had cuts on his left had and right arm.
Eheart told police that Sprague had an issue with the male victim because he said he disrespected his girlfriend and said they also intended to steal from them. Eheart also said Britton was the third male involved in the Grove Place robbery.
Eheart pleaded guilty in both cases to the charges of robbery-threat of serious bodily injury and robbery-threat of bodily injury, burglary, criminal trespass, aggravated assault, simple assault, conspiracy-robbery, criminal attempt-theft by unlawful taking and robbery-serious bodily injury, robbery-threaten bodily injury, burglary, criminal trespass, aggravated assault, simple assault, conspiracy-robbery, criminal attempt-theft by unlawful taking.
Britton and Sprague's cases have not yet been resolved. Sprague and Britton are incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail in one case and $100,000 bail in the other.