CLEARFIELD – A Virginia man charged with invading an elderly couple’s home and robbing them has pleaded guilty in plea and sentencing court in Clearfield County.
Austin Cory Eheart, 20, 9 Green Ct., Palmyra, VA, pleaded guilty to numerous counts of robbery, burglary, criminal conspiracy, false imprisonment and criminal mischief. In a second case, he pleaded guilty to additional counts of robbery, aggravated assault, and criminal conspiracy.
He was sentenced by Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman to a total of eight to 16 years in state prison.
The charges stem from an incident in Sandy Township on June 17 when he and Jeffrey A. Sprague, 29, 509 W. Washington Ave., DuBois, and Eric W. Britton, 30, 139 Main St., Falls Creek broke into an elderly couple’s home and removed $1,000 in cash. Charges in the second case come from an incident in DuBois on June 12 when the trio allegedly broke into a residence where they assaulted a man.
Prior to sentencing, Eheart apologized saying he didn’t want anyone to get hurt. He admitted it was his choice to be involved and no one forced him to do anything.
Sprague was also scheduled for sentencing, but his cases were continued until December. Britton’s cases are still pending.
At a preliminary hearing in June, one of the elderly victims testified that he was asleep in bed when he was awakened by his wife and a masked man asking for his money. Before he left, 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. The victim identified the man as Sprague.
Eheart testified for the commonwealth. He explained that he was in the area visiting Britton. Sprague, whom he met through Britton, 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.
He admitted he had one drink, and they had smoked a “bit of weed” in addition to taking Adderall-type pills before leaving for the victim’s home. The plan was to get in through a window, but it was locked. They then ripped off a screen door and Sprague forced open the main door. After they entered he heard a woman asking what they were doing there. Britton stayed in the main room with the elderly woman because she was “freaking out.”
As soon as they got into the room where the money was supposed to be, Eheart said he was scared. He broke the window with a bat and injured his head, arm and hands getting out. He ran through the woods and became lost before finding a car wash and a man who allowed him to use his phone. Eheart then called a friend for a ride and later 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.
Eheart also testified regarding the other case. He said Sprague had a problem with someone who was talking bad about his girlfriend and asked him to go along to the residence.
They entered through an unlocked door. 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 it was his idea to search for things to steal.
The victim in this case testified that he was at his girlfriend’s house when he heard there were three people 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.
Sprague ordered the others to “get him.” One swung at him and then another hit him. He ran up the stairs to escape them but they followed. Sprague forced the victim’s girlfriend up the stairs with a pocket knife held in her back and told the others to hit the victim again. The victim said his whole body was hit by more than just one of the invaders.
Once they let him go he went into the room where they had his girlfriend. The men were ransacking the place. Sprague pushed him downstairs asking for the victim’s car keys. After they took his keys, two of them searched his vehicle while Sprague hit him three or four more times before leaving.
The victim said his nose was fractured. He also suffered scrapes and had bruising around his eye. Overall, he said they hit him more than 20 times.
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.