EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — A couple convicted of burglarizing homes evacuated by the Waldo Canyon fire might have reconsidered stealing $3,000 worth of property if they knew it was going to cost them 120 years of their lives.
Hindsight being 20-20, that thought may have been running through the heads of Shane Garrett and Belinda Wells-Yates as they were sentenced this week by an El Paso County judge to 48 and 72 years in prison, respectively.
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, both received the hefty prison sentences mostly due to the fact that they are repeat offenders eligible to face triple-digit penalties under Colorado’s “habitual offender” laws.
The two were arrested a day after attempting to sell items stolen from the home of Chris and Carol White in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, one of the hardest hit by the Waldo Canyon fire in June 2013, to an undercover CBI agent. In addition to burglary, the two were also convicted of methamphetamine possession and identity theft, among other charges.
Furthermore, prosecutors said that had Garrett and Wells-Yates not been caught, they had plans to victimize other evacuated homes across Colorado in one of the state’s busiest fire seasons to date.
Though the couple’s lawyers pushed for leniency, arguing that their clients were intermittently homeless and addicted to drugs, 4th Judicial District Judge David Shakes tended to side with El Paso County District Attorney Dan May, a Waldo Canyon fire evacuee himself, who personally prosecuted Garrett and Well-Yates.
Though he called the re-victimizing of fire evacuees “abhorrent,” May didn’t believe the hefty sentences handed down by Shakes had much to do with the emotional nature of the case. He believed they were more due to the pair’s criminal history.
Wells-Yates has three prior felony convictions, all for drug offenses, and Garrett, has four convictions, all for drugs and attempted burglary. Under the “habitual offender” law, convicted felons like Wells-Yates and Garrett face tripled or quadrupled penalties.
Shakes partially attributed Wells-Yates’ stiffer sentence to the sarcasm she directed toward the Whites during the trial. Garrett, on the other hand, publicly wept when his guilty verdict was read.