Taco Bell robber sentenced

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By Tom Wilmoth

    The Evington man convicted of robbing, at gunpoint, the Taco Bell in Forest, will spend six years in prison for his crimes.
    But it could have been longer.
    Elton Mays Short III, 23, was facing a nine-year mandatory sentence until his lawyer, Linda Willis, presented a recent case to Judge James Updike in which the Virginia Supreme Court ruled mandatory gun sentences could run concurrently, rather than consecutively.
    Short had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted robbery and three counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony in connection with the May 23 robbery. The firearms convictions carry three year mandatory sentences, but the new ruling allows those to be served at one time.
    Short’s mother, Melissa Simonton, stated during the sentencing hearing that her son had problems with drugs and alcohol abuse and that he told her he had been smoking crack cocaine the day of the robbery. She also testified that her son had a .42 grade point average in high school, and failed to graduate.
    “He’s really a good kid,” she said. “I don’t know why he did this. It’s not like him.”

    The robbery occurred when a masked male carrying a handgun entered through the Forest Taco Bell drive-through window on May 23. Bedford County 911 dispatchers received a call a little after 11 p.m. that Wednesday reporting the attempted armed robbery. After learning that the money had been secured for the evening, the suspect left the business.
    On August 3, Kandace Rae Moore, 20, of Forest, was arrested for her part in the Taco Bell robbery. She pleaded guilty last fall to three counts of attempted robbery and testified during the preliminary hearing on the case. She is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 5.
    Short was arrested in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
    Simonton said her son is an excellent father to his 2-year-old child.
    “He regrets it,” she said of the robbery. “He wishes it had never happened.”
    Stephanie Ayers, chief assistant commonwealth’s attorney, argued for a lengthy prison sentence, noting the “aggravated nature” of the charges. Ayers said Short pointed the firearm, believed now to be a BB gun, at one of the store’s employees and two other employees heard her scream. She noted the fear each of the employees must have felt as they were “looking down the barrel of a firearm.”
    Willis, however, noted that no money was actually taken from the store; the night deposit had already been made. She also said there weren’t any injuries from the incident. “It was not an actual firearm,” she said.
    Short had been employed at the Taco Bell until April. Though he was masked and wore gloves, the employees at the store during the robbery said they recognized his mannerisms and voice, Ayers said.
    Prior to being sentenced, Short told the court he was sorry for what he had done. “I made a really stupid mistake,” he said.
    Judge Updike sentenced Short to eight years on each of the three attempted robbery cases, with each of the sentences suspended. He sentenced Short to six years on the firearms charges.