David Brian Neece, who entered a guilty plea in circuit court for theft-related charges apparently had his sentence substantially reduced at a recent court hearing this month.
Neece had initially received a sentence of 1-to-15 years in prison. But, that sentence was suspended on Jan. 12 by Circuit Judge Eric O'Briant.
A motion for an alternative sentence had been made on behalf of Neece, who received 10 days in jail and four months on home confinement, with two years of probation.
According to court records, on October 13, 2005, Neece broke into the home of George Willis Lukacs II in Holden and stole a $4,000 computer, a $400 pocket PC, one $100 satellite box, a $400 LCD monitor, an $800 computer tower and items totaling $5,700 in value. Neece was charged with burglary and grand larceny over the incident.
On July 17, 2005, Neece had reportedly broken into Napier's Exxon, where he took two Case knives valued at $85 and $47 respectively. Neece was charged with burglary and petit larceny charges for that incident.
Records state that Neece was ordered to maintain a work schedule as part of his alternative sentencing agreement. The agreement submitted by Neece and his defense attorney states that Neece has the support of family and friends in maintaining a drug free lifestyle, and that he had not had any positive drug screens while under bond supervision by probation officers, and that "it is in the best interest of the Logan County Community and society in general for the defendant to be a productive citizen and not simply warehoused in a penitentiary."
Reportedly, other accused burglars may also receive lightened sentences, according to the relatives of some of the victims. Brian Simpkins, 23 of Kistler and Josh Mounts, 23, of Henlawson, were accused of being the "backdoor bandits."
The duo was charged with knocking on an elderly victim’s front door and sneaking in the back to commit robberies, and are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 5, possibly for a sentence reduction hearing.
One of the family members of a victim told The Logan Banner they were told the two men are going to receive 1-to-15 years and 1-to-10 years, respectively, but that a hearing was planned to reduce their sentences because of jail overcrowding.
The duo were arrested by West Virginia State Police Troopers G.W. Collins, R.R. Robinson and P.A. Jones on June 24, 2006, on charges of grand larceny, burglary (times two) and conspiracy.
Simpkins was charged with burglary and two counts of conspiracy. The officers came upon the duo when they responded to a call in Wilkinson about a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, the troopers were told Simpkins and Mounts were allegedly leaving the house. They spoke with Simpkins who was placed in custody and reportedly confessed that he entered the house while Joshua Mounts stood out front and distracted the victim. During one of the robberies, the duo allegedly stole more than $1000.
Local law enforcement officers said these cases are not unique and that there are many notorious local repeat felony offenders who get locked up, then released on alternative sentencing programs.
"We keep catching some of the same guys and they lock them up and let them out, and we arrest them again," one officer said. "It's not our fault."
Larry Rogers of the Omar Area Crime Watch said volunteers from area watch groups may start sitting in on some of the hearings to observe just how the system works and see why many accused and convicted criminals wind up walking around free after they have been taken into custody.
"This is not right," Rogers said. "We understand that the jail bill is high and that it costs money to keep people locked up. But there are some people who are a threat to the community who do need to be locked up. We have had several murders over the past few years committed by people who were robbing other people. Any burglary or home invasion can be dangerous."