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W.Va. man gets 22 years for robbing disabled man

October 27, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A 20-year-old Bunker Hill, W.Va., man was sentenced Monday to 22 years in prison for robbing a disabled man at gunpoint on a cold January night last year and leaving him along a dirt road without his cane.

Describing the crime as "beyond the pale" and one of the worst he's seen while on the bench, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes told Andrew Jay Creager in his sentencing hearing that he would have ordered a 60- to 80-year prison sentenced, had he been older.

"They drove off laughing and threw his cane out in the woods," recalled Wilkes of the evidence presented in Creager's trial in July. In addition to the sentence, Wilkes ordered Creager to pay $563 in restitution.

In the sentencing hearing on Monday, Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Timothy D. Helman asked the judge to impose a 40-year sentence, citing Creager's prior criminal record and four-count indictment pending in circuit court.

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Creager, who was indicted in October 2008, was accused of robbing the 28-year-old victim on Jan. 4, 2008, according to court records. In February 2009, the defendant was indicted on counts of grand larceny, burglary and conspiracy in an unrelated case, according to court records.

The disabled victim was looking for a ride to a friend's house from the Old Stone Restaurant in Clear Brook, Va., south of the Berkeley County line, according to court records.

Creager and two friends riding with him didn't take the victim where he wanted to go, and Creager robbed him of about $500 in cash, his mobile phone and medication container, Helman had said.

The victim was left stranded along a dirt road off Novak Drive near the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport until he was able to flag down a motorist who took him to a convenience store where he called police, according to Helman.

The victim was carrying the large amount of cash because he had just cashed his disability check, Helman had said. The victim was disabled from head injuries he sustained in a vehicle accident, Helman had said.

After the hearing on Monday, Helman said prosecution of the other two individuals in the vehicle with Creager proved to be difficult because the victim couldn't positively identify them, but he indicated both are incarcerated on other charges.

Prior to being sentenced, Creager turned to the victim who was seated in the gallery and told him he was sorry for what he did. In prepared remarks he asked the man and his family for forgiveness.

"Since my arrest, my life has changed in so many ways for the better," Creager said.

Creager's stepfather, fiancee, former job supervisor and his attorney, J. Mark Sutton, also spoke on behalf of the defendant, who was 18 at the time of the incident.

"I think he has shown the ability that he can be rehabilitated," said Sutton, noting strides his client has made in obtaining a GED, maintaining employment prior to his conviction and commitment to his fiancee and their child have together.

The victim, who slowly made his way to courtroom podium, told the judge that he was doing "OK" but said he didn't want what happened to him happen to anyone else.

Wilkes said he believed that Creager had made "genuine efforts" in trying to better himself, but also added that didn't erase what had happened in the past.

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