A circuit judge deferred the sentencing of a Shepherdstown, W.Va., man who pleaded guilty Thursday to taking part in the 2010 armed robbery of Beck’s Kennels in Berkeley County.
Ian Michael Derr, 22, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and felony burglary in Berkeley County Circuit Court, but can avoid a prison sentence if he successfully completes a rehabilitative education-based program at the Anthony Correctional Center for youthful offenders.
The co-defendant in the case, Ronald Dale “Georgie” Whetzel Jr., 17, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in December, but 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh concluded Thursday that there was a “marked difference” between Whetzel and Derr, who she said seems to be genuinely remorseful.
Derr’s lack of criminal history, full confession to the crime and cooperation with the police also factored into Groh’s decision.
If Derr is not successful at the Anthony Correctional Center, Groh agreed with Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely’s recommendation that he be sentenced to 40 years in prison.
In apologizing to the victims, Derr said in court Thursday that “the crime I committed was very serious” and that there was nothing he could do to erase the victims’ memory of what happened.
He also vowed to pay back “every penny” of the $8,000 that police said he and Whetzel took from the kennel.
Masked and dressed in all black clothing, Whetzel and Derr waved what appeared to be handguns at three women in the business, which was operated out of a residence, and demanded all of the money being kept there, according to court records.
Whetzel was carrying a pellet gun and Derr was armed with a 9mm handgun, police have said.
While Groh agreed the severity of the defendants’ criminal actions were no different, she said Derr appeared “remorseful” upon hearing one of the victims speak about the impact of the crime on her life in court on Thursday.
At the same time, Groh said she was surprised by Whetzel’s “nonreactive” manner when he entered a no-contest plea to the same felony robbery and burglary charges in December.
Whetzel was prosecuted as an adult and was 16 when the armed robbery happened, police said.
Groh had said she was sympathetic about Whetzel’s troubled upbringing, but concluded the safety of the community and the circumstances of the crime, which happened while the defendant already was in the juvenile justice system, were among her primary concerns.
Games-Neely told the court that she knew Whetzel’s mother and father well, and said they didn’t learn to change their ways after she prosecuted them for a number of unrelated crimes.
“And I’m not sure Georgie (will learn), either,” Games-Neely had said at Whetzel’s plea and sentencing hearing.