05/18/12 Last year’s string of daytime home burglaries in northern Marshall County ended on Wednesday with the sentencing of Justine Whitt to the maximum prison term allowed under his agreement with the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office. Under the terms of the agreement, Whitt pled guilty to one count of burglary as a Class B felony and sentencing was left up to Marshall Superior Court I Judge Robert O. Bowen. The agreement provided for a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. The remaining 12 counts were dismissed, as well as a shoplifting charge from Wal-Mart.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Nelson Chipman argued for the maximum sentence allowed, emphasizing the seriousness of the offenses and their repetitiveness. Defense attorney Ryan Beall from LaPorte argued for an extended suspended sentence and a lengthy probation period.
Under questioning from Chipman, Whitt stated from the witness stand he could not remember man of the events. Whitt admitted to being addicted to heroin, but denied this theft of lithium batteries from Wal-Mart and related to the production of methamphetamine.
Chipman questioned Whitt in detail about one of the burglaries in which he said his co-defendant, Joshua Stone, kicked in the door of a house on Filbert Road near Bremen, a house they thought was unoccupied only to find a 13 year old girl had just returned from school and was home alone. According to court documents, the girl screamed at the intruders, hit and clawed at them and chased them from her house. Whitt claimed from the witness stand he did not remember that event.
After arguments were made, Judge Bowen sentenced Whitt to the maximum time allowed of 10 years imprisonment at the Indiana Department of Corrections. He also ordered restitution to all of the victims.
The Prosecutor’s Office commends the excellent police work of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, including Detective Neal Wallace and Deputies Rob Hafke, Bruce Carter, and Brandon Cooper. Also credited was an anonymous tip to Indiana State Police Officer Keith Bikowski that led to locating the vehicle used in several of the burglaries. Also commended was the bravery of the 13 year old girl who repelled the burglars from her home.