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Three sentenced on burglaries

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They point blame at each other

By Tom Wilmoth

    When the two men and one woman who broke into a Huddleston home in Dec. 2011 returned to that home to pick  up the merchandise they planned to take, a surprise was waiting for them — the owners of that home and two neighbors.

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    One of those neighbors, Dave Vaden, had a gun.
    Two of the suspects were detained until authorities could show up; the third took off and was on the loose for more than a month.

    Now, more than a year later, the sentences for those robberies have been handed down in Bedford County Circuit Court. The one who initially slipped away received the longest active sentence.
    Kean Jule Montgomery, 29, of Vinton received two years in prison for the six burglaries and larcenies he was convicted of committing over a two week period in 2011; Michael McDonald, 24, of Huddleston, was sentenced to participate in a detention and diversion program; and Amanda Elizabeth Harding, 22, of Huddleston received 12 months in jail.
    Friday’s sentencing hearings for all three saw them pointing the fingers at one another as to who actually led the burglary spree.
    Montgomery, who had entered Alford pleas last October on the six larceny and burglary charges, was sentenced first.
    Karol Hartman, the mother of Montgomery’s 6-year-old child, said her former boyfriend was a model father. “He is everything I could ask for as a father figure (for our child),” Hartman said, adding that Montgomery provides day care for their son. “He’s a daddy’s boy, 100 percent.”
    Emma Montgomery, Kean’s sister, testified that Amanda Harding had told her she was sorry she got Kean Montgomery into trouble. “She told me Kean was only guilty of loving her,” Emma Montgomery testified.
    Montgomery’s sister asked that her brother be allowed to participate in a detention and diversion program. Those programs serve as a boot camp and job training resource for qualifying offenders. “He will take every opportunity to better himself,” she told Circuit Court Judge James Updike.
    Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Mark Robinette, however, reminded Judge Updike of the trauma the burglaries had on the victims, adding that the crimes took place over a period of time and weren’t “a single impulse crime.”
    Montgomery’s attorney, Greg Phillips of Roanoke, asked that his client be given a second chance. “He made poor choices,” Phillips said.
    Montgomery apologized to the court, his family and the victims and said God had blessed him with a child “that I love more than anything.”
    “It breaks my heart that I chose to be around Amanda (Harding),” he said.
    Judge Updike, while he gave less active time than was recommended in the sentencing guidelines, said he couldn’t ignore that six homes had been burglarized. Montgomery was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but two years suspended. After being released he will have five years of supervised probation and has to repay $5,112 in restitution to the victims.
    Harding’s sentencing hearing was next and she placed the blame on the two men, rather than herself.
    Charles D. Harding Jr., her father, testified his daughter had been living with them since being arrested and has been a model citizen. “It was very poor judgment on her part,” Charles Harding said. “She’s learned a great lesson. … We have been keeping pretty tight reins on her.”
    Charles Harding said that his daughter made a terrible mistake. “Amanda has a bright future,” he said. “I think this situation has allowed her to grow up quite a bit.”
    Amanda Harding testified she met McDonald while working at Benjamin’s Restaurant and was abusing drugs at the time of the robberies. She said McDonald called her and had her pick up some trash bags of items, including food and liquor, and take them back to her house. “I helped him transport it,” she said.
    The three later stayed in a Huddleston condominium, after finding a key to the unit in an electrical box. That night, Harding said Montgomery and McDonald left for a while. That morning they had her drive them to a home to pick up boxes of stolen items that had been piled at the home’s front door. That’s when they were caught.
    Harding claimed she never went into the home.
    Eventually, Harding would help authorities locate Montgomery, after she got in contact with him and set up a meeting.
    “I figured helping them was the right thing to do,” Harding said.
    Harding is pregnant with a due date of Feb. 24. “I’ve changed all of my habits,” she said. “I’m just trying to change my life for the betterment of my child.”
    She expressed shame for the burglaries. “I’m embarrassed at what I’ve done,” Harding said. “I’m sorry that I even put myself in that position.”
    Her attorney, John Bradley, asked for a lenient sentence. “This is someone who is undergoing a life-changing event,” he said.
    Judge Updike said her degree of involvement appeared to be less than Montgomery, noting she had cooperated with authorities in the case and testified at the preliminary hearing against Montgomery. He sentenced her to 10 years with all of that suspended except for 12 months to be spent in jail. She will serve five years of supervised probation and pay restitution of $5,112. Because of her pregnancy, Judge Updike ordered her to report to jail on March 7.
    McDonald’s sentencing was the last of the three defendants and Robinette and defense attorney Darren Shoen made quick work of it. They agreed, because of his cooperation in the case, on the detention and diversion programs. In all, those amount to about 12 months of incarceration. He will also serve eight years of supervised probation and have to pay restitution of $5,112.
    “I know my actions were stupid,” McDonald said. “I just wasn’t thinking at the time.”