Probation handed down in burglary spree, office vandalism cases

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Jacob Colyott
Travis Fornkohl

Jacob Colyott and Travis Fornkohl were in court on different cases Monday, but a judge gave them the same sentence of five years probation -- one for his role in a recent rash of burglaries and the other for single-handedly causing $600,000 in damage to a local office building.

Judge Ben Lewis also offered the men similar words of warning -- mess up, he said, and they'd find themselves in prison.

Colyott, 19, and Fornkohl, 32, could have received lengthy prison terms from Lewis.

Colyott is one of three defendants who have been implicated in dozens of burglaries and home invasions in Cape Girardeau and Jackson. Colyott, who had the least number of charges against him at two, pleaded to counts of first- and second-degree burglary. His co-defendants have also pleaded guilty to their charges.

Fornkohl pleaded guilty last month to sneaking into Auburn Park Place through an unsecured door and opening up a 6-inch waterline that soaked the building throughout.

Fornkohl sentenced

The decision, which Lewis described as difficult in both cases, may have been made more tricky in Fornkohl's case because of an arrangement between the lawyers. Prosecutors weren't allowed to weigh in with their sentencing recommendation, as they usually do, as part of the plea agreement made in exchange for the dismissal of a burglary count.

Defense attorney Malcolm Montgomery, representing Fornkohl, did speak to the judge, however, reminding Lewis that his client was being treated for schizophrenia. Not to mention, he said, that Fornkohl also had no criminal record until now.

Lewis went along with the deal, but he said it didn't excuse what Fornkohl did. Fornkohl admitted he intentionally damaged the private property in June, though no explanation has been offered other than the mental condition.

Lewis never took issue with Fornkohl's mental condition. But Lewis said that, at the plea hearing, Fornkohl said he knew what he was doing and that it was wrong. Neither did Lewis order restitution, saying that Fornkohl is unemployable.

But expect a prison stay, Lewis said, if Fornkohl again goes off his medications.

"I don't think sending you to prison will have a positive effect on your life," Lewis said. "I will send you to prison to keep you from hurting other people and damaging other people's property. Your problems won't stop me from doing that."

Colyott sentenced

Colyott also was given five years of probation after pleading guilty last month to two felony burglary counts. Jeff Dix asked the judge not to lump his client in with his co-defendants -- Aaron Denson and William Artadi -- and their higher burglary counts.

A victim who was at home late at night when the three men broke in, however, made little distinction among the three. The victim said that when he confronted the burglars in his home, one of the men yelled that they had a gun, a fact that was later confirmed by police.

Throughout the spree, the men broke into vehicles and homes in Cape Girardeau and Jackson, starting late last year until the men were arrested this fall. They stole electronic items, cellphones, anything they came across, the victim said.

"He wasn't stealing because he needed food," the victim said. "It was just the easiest way to get what he wanted. ... I'm not sure I will ever feel safe in my home again."

Prosecutor Angel Woodruff said many of the victims felt that way. While she wasn't sure a long prison term was appropriate, she also didn't like straight probation.

Lewis cautioned Colyott to take advantage of the last chance probation provides. He also said that Colyott deserved prison.

"We'll see if you're just sorry right now, or if you take the opportunity to turn your life around," Lewis said. "If you don't, then I cease to be concerned about you. My job at that point becomes to protect everybody else from you."


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