Final crowbar burglar gets prison
A 44-year-old South Lake Tahoe man, who had hoped for probation, was sentenced Tuesday to a minimum of 66 months in prison for his role in a series of burglaries.
District Judge Tod Young sentenced Jeffrey Lee Stephens to 18-60 months consecutive on three counts of burglary, 12-60 months consecutive on a fourth count of burglary and 12-32 months concurrent on two counts of attempted possession of stolen property.
Stephens was the third defendant to be sentenced in the burglary spree that targeted homes and a business in Carson Valley.
Codefendants Joseph Winters and his wife Jean were sentenced to maximum sentences of 20 and 12 years respectively.
Stephens’ attorney, Michael Novi, asked the judge Tuesday to sentence his client to probation.
“He has a minimal criminal history,” Novi said.
He said custody of Stephens’ 8-year-old daughter was riding on the outcome.
“This case is important to him for many reasons,” Novi said. “He feels he let his daughter down and wants custody back. He will have to jump through many hoops.”
Young interrupted Novi to say how offended he was that letters of support for Stephens include one from the little girl.
“It’s extremely offensive to ask an 8-year-old child to write a letter to the judge asking him not to put daddy in prison. That is grotesquely inappropriate,” Young said.
Novi said Stephens would be supervised by Parole and Probation in Nevada and California Child and Family Services.
He said his client met with law enforcement for a complete debriefing to help recover stolen property.
Prosecutor Maria Pence urged the judge to send Stephens to prison.
“Probation is for newcomers to the criminal justice system,” Pence said. “He (Stephens) has attempted to minimize his role when he was the one who led the way.”
She said when the trio was caught Oct. 18, 2013, Stephens was in the victim’s house holding a pillowcase full of stolen goods, with tape over his shoes to disguise his footprints.
She said he entered the residence after knocking on the door in the daytime and finding nobody home. He returned to the vehicle, got a crowbar and broke into the house.
Stephens claimed the Winters threatened to harm his child if he didn’t go along with the burglaries.
“I wasn’t the leader. They threatened the well-being of my child. I drove the car. After being badgered by her (Jean Winters), I took the deal. With her threatening my daughter, I did whatever they told me,” he said.
Young ordered Stephens to pay more than $4,000 restitution to the victims who included Northern Nevada Coin.
The three defendants were arrested on Oct. 18 at a home in Valley Crest Estates where someone had used a crowbar to break in.
At the scene of their arrest, investigators found a white 2000 Ford Explorer described in an Oct. 11 burglary attempt in Minden.
They admitted to burglaries on Lakeside Drive in the foothill area, Parkview Drive and Valley Vista in Indian Hills.
Similar thefts were investigated by California authorities.
“I understand you have a substance abuse problem, but that doesn’t entitle you to break into peoples’ homes,” Young said.
He gave Stephens credit for 180 days time served.