Saturday, February 09, 2013

Trio sentenced for numerous home break-ins in Bedford County

They were arrested when a neighbor of one victim held them at gunpoint until police arrived.

A trio facing identical burglary charges largely turned against one another at their sentencing hearings Friday in Bedford County Circuit Court.

Charged in a string of home break-ins around Bedford County, Huddleston residents Amanda Harding, 22, and Michael McDonald, 24, pleaded guilty in June to six counts of grand larceny and six counts of statutory burglary.

They were arrested in December 2011 near a Mariners Landing home that had been broken into. A neighbor armed with a pistol held them at the scene until police arrived, authorities have said.

The third defendant, Kean Jule Montgomery, 29, who has a Vinton mailing address, was accused of fleeing the scene that day when he was captured a month later. He, too, was charged with six counts of grand larceny and six counts of burglary, and in October he entered an Alford plea in the case.

In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the prosecution has the evidence to persuade a judge or jury to convict.

In their three separate but consecutive hearings Friday, Judge James Updike sentenced Montgomery to two years in prison and Harding to one year. McDonald must complete a detention and diversion program, essentially a military boot camp and drug treatment program, which takes about 10 months.

Harding, who is more than eight months pregnant and is expected to give birth Feb. 24, was given until early March to report to jail.

Each also must pay $5,100 in restitution to the victims.

Montgomery — his voice choked with emotion — read a letter to Updike asking for a second chance and expressing regret for his involvement with Harding.

Harding took the stand and acknowledged to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mark Robinette that she'd been abusing hard drugs during the period the robberies took place.

"I was friends with the wrong people," she said. "Drugs were taking my mind over.

"When I met Kean is when I started using cocaine."

Although Harding pleaded guilty to six separate burglaries, and property stolen from all six victims was found at her parents' home, on the stand she claimed she'd only been tangentially involved in two of the cases. She gave information to investigators about Montgomery's possible whereabouts when he was a fugitive, and both she and McDonald have testified against him.

"I figured helping them find him was the right thing to do," Harding said, and Updike cited their cooperation as considerations when he sentenced Harding and McDonald.

After the hearings, Robinette expressed satisfaction with the outcomes.

"Few crimes generate as much public anger as a home burglary," he said.

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