DUBOIS – Three men charged for invading an elderly couple’s home and robbing them, were scheduled for preliminary hearings Friday.
Jeffrey A. Sprague, 28, 509 W. Washington Ave., DuBois; Austin Cory Eheart, 20, 9 Green Ct., Palmyra, VA; and Eric W. Britton, 30, 139 Main St., Falls Creek, are charged with robbery, burglary, theft and related charges in two cases. They are also charged with aggravated assault in the first case. Britton is also charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct in a third case from 2005.
Eheart and Britton waived their rights to preliminary hearings, but Sprague had a hearing.
The charges stem from incidents in DuBois on June 12 when the trio allegedly broke into a residence where they assaulted a man and a second incident in Sandy Township on June 17 when they broke into an elderly couple’s home and removed $1,000 in cash.
The first witness was the elderly victim in the second case who is confined to a wheelchair. He testified that he was asleep in bed when he was awakened by his wife and a masked man asking for his money. He described his wife as being scared and shaking. The victim told him to get out but the man didn’t leave immediately. Before he did leave, the man ordered them not to call the cops for 10 minutes. After he was gone, they discovered a tool box, which had $1,000 in cash in it was missing.
During cross examination by Joseph Ryan, attorney for Sprague, the victim said the home was not ransacked but he did not think anyone else knew there was money in the missing tool box. He didn’t see the other two men his wife said were in their residence but he said that Sprague looked like the man who was in his room. He did note that the man had the bottom of his faced covered. According to the affidavit in this case, the men were wearing bandanas over the lower part of their faces.
Eheart, who has been given temporary immunity, testified that he was in the area visiting Britton. He met Sprague because they were both staying at the same place. Sprague told him that the victims had a couple thousand dollars at their home and he knew where it was located. They talked for several days about how they would break into the home.
The night before the burglary they were up all night. He admitted he had one drink before they left and they had smoked a “bit of weed” and taken adderal type pills.
The three men drove and parked near the residence, walking the rest of the way carrying a ladder. The plan was to get in through a window, but it was locked. They then went to the door. A screen door was ripped off and Sprague forced open the main door. They entered and heard a woman asking what they were doing there. He followed Sprague into the room where the money was supposed to be. Britton stayed in the main room with the elderly woman because she was “freaking out.”
As soon as he got into the room, Eheart, who was scared, broke the window with a bat and got out. He injured his head, arm and hands. He ran through the woods and became lost. He found his way to a car wash where he asked a man to use his phone. Eheart then called Anastasia Boleen for a ride back to her home. Once they got there, he changed his clothes and asked her to take him to the hospital for treatment. He received stitches in his hand, he testified.
Although Sprague told him he screwed up when he left the residence, he gave Eheart $200 because “I showed I wanted to do it.” Eheart was not sure how much money Sprague had taken.
When asked by Ryan if he saw Sprague take anything, he said no but he claimed to be “in a daze.”
Eheart also testified regarding the first case. He said Sprague had a problem with someone who was talking bad about his girlfriend and asked him to go along.
They went through the front door, which was unlocked. Eheart admitted he was the first to strike the victim. He saw Sprague hit the victim several times in the face and body. Eheart said he started searching the residence for any money or drugs, but he didn’t find anything.
Ryan asked if all three of the men had struck the victim, and Eheart said they had. Eheart admitted it was his idea to look for things to steal.
The victim in this case testified that he was at his girlfriend’s house when a neighbor told his girlfriend three people were hitting his vehicle with a baseball bat. The victim went out to check his car for damage. When he went back into the house three people, two with bandanas on their faces, came through the door. One of them said his name was Jeffrey Sprague. He told the others to “get him.” One swung at him and then another hit him. He ran up the stairs but they followed. Sprague forced his girlfriend up the stairs with a pocket knife he held in her back. Sprague ordered the others to hit him again. Britton came at him with a knife, which he knocked out of his hand. Britton then put him into a head lock. The victim said his whole body was hit by more than just one of them.
They let him go and he went into another room where they had his girlfriend. They were ransacking the place and one of them was looking for his car keys. Sprague pushed him downstairs asking for the keys. After they took his keys, two of them searched his vehicle while Sprague hit him three or four more times before leaving.
An ambulance was called and he was taken to the hospital for treatment. His nose was fractured, he had scrapes everywhere and there were marks on his arm and bruising around his eye. He said the two men with bandanas had brass knuckles, which they used on him. Overall, he said they hit him more than 20 times.
After the hearing, Magisterial District Judge Patrick Ford ruled all charges against Sprague be sent on to the court of common pleas. All three men remain in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $100,000 and $250,000 bail.
According to the criminal complaint, police were able to determine Sprague, Eheart and Britton were the ones involved with the home invasion after they apprehended Sprague for the first incident. When they found Sprague at a West Washington Avenue residence, they also saw Eheart, who matched the description of a suspect seen in surveillance footage near the crime scene. A broken ladder was found at the residence that matched a portion of a ladder found at the Sandy Township home.
While Eheart was questioned by police, he admitted to breaking into the home with Sprague. A woman who lent the three men her vehicle that night, also named Britton. When Britton was questioned he at first denied any involvement, but then admitted he was at the residence but claimed he did not go inside.