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3 of 5 defendants in home invasion case enter pleas

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Three of the five defendants charged with a home invasion last January 17 have already pleaded guilty to six felonies in connection with the crime. Court dates for the final two defendants are currently on the docket.
    Augustis Julian Xavier, 19, of Roanoke, Juan Quontell Welton, 21, of Roanoke, and Nathan Jamal Nelms, 19, of Fincastle have all entered guilty pleas in the case. Kenneth Tito Beaner, 19, of Bedford and Durell Orlando Brown, 26, of Bedford are also charged in the case.
    All five defendants were charged with felony counts of wearing a mask in public (punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison), attempted burglary, attempted robbery, shooting into an occupied dwelling (all punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison), and use of a firearm in commission of a robbery and use of a firearm in commission of a burglary. The firearms charges carry a total mandatory minimum sentence of eight years, upon conviction.
    Brown also faces an additional charge of transporting a firearm, because he is a convicted felon, which carries a five year mandatory minimum prison sentence if convicted.
    Xavier was the first of the defendants to take action on the charges, entering guilty pleas last March. Elton entered guilty pleas to all of the charges last August and Nelms entered guilty pleas earlier this month to all of the charges except use of a firearm in commission of a burglary. None of the defendants had prior plea agreements in place and all are scheduled to be sentenced April 29. A ski mask that was recovered had DNA matching Nelms inside it, according to authorities.
    Beaner is scheduled for a jury trial on the charges on April 29, but he has a pretrial motions hearing set for next Tuesday. Brown, who was scheduled to be in court this week for a bond hearing, is scheduled to go to trial April 1. Brown, however, is scheduled for a Feb. 18 jury trial on a separate charge of distribution of cocaine. That charge stems from an allegation that he sold cocaine to an undercover officer on Jan. 12 of last year, just days before the home invasion occurred.
    According to the charges related to the home invasion, the five defendants allegedly traveled to Bedford from Roanoke to break into a home on Centerville Road. According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz, they went there with the belief that the homeowner had drugs and money in his house. Two of the men brought guns, a .357 magnum revolver and a .38 special revolver.
    Krantz said, however, the home invasion went wrong when the man wasn’t home but his wife, along with two children, were. Krantz said the men fled, shooting twice into the home as they left. They never actually entered the home.
    The woman called 911 and deputies with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office were nearby and pursued the vehicle down Centerville Road. Krantz said they drove through a field and then fled on foot after coming to some woods. Welton was apprehended near the vehicle.
    Krantz said while the attempt to enter the home and commit robbery ultimately proved unsuccessful, “this is still a very serious crime.” All five defendants have been held without bond since their arrests.