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Man gets probation, Teen Challenge in burglary spree

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aaron Denson
If Aaron Denson had been given the maximum sentence Monday, it would have taken the 21-year-old Jackson man more than six of his lifetimes to serve it.

Instead of a 142-year prison term, Judge Benjamin Lewis placed Denson on five years probation for his role in the burglary spree that plagued Cape Girardeau and Jackson for nine months. Lewis also ordered, at Denson's request, that he enroll in Teen Challenge, a faith-based program for treatment of drug abuse.

"Any of the victims would have been within their rights to shoot and kill you," Lewis told Denson. "That would have caused your family to cry, but to anyone else you would have been a statistic and one less burglar."

The sentence handed down by Lewis technically was two consecutive 10-year prison terms on two counts of first-degree burglary. Denson was given 15 seven-year sentences to run concurrently on as many charges of second-degree burglary. One count of stealing a firearm added another concurrent seven-year stint.

Lewis suspended the sentence and placed him on probation, which leaves Denson with a criminal record, and Lewis warned if Denson didn't follow the rules of probation, he would go to prison to serve his time. The drug treatment program was required because Denson was smoking marijuana daily at the time of the offenses, according to court documents.

More than a dozen victims filed impact statements with the court, including one who wrote about the sense of violation the burglary left him with. The man now arms himself in his own home, according to the statement.

Denson became the second of three defendants to be sentenced after each pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from the nine-month spree that ended with dozens of victims. Jacob Colyott, 20, also was sentenced to five years probation for two burglary charges. William Artadi, with his 13 counts, is to be sentenced next week.

But Denson, whom police called the ringleader, pleaded guilty to the most at 18. Denson admitted to the judge in November that he was involved with two home-invasion burglaries -- which take place when the victims are still home -- and 15 second-degree burglaries. His one stealing charge was for a stolen gun.

Denson's lawyer, Malcolm Montgomery, disagreed Monday with the notion that the sentence was light in consideration of the bulky charge totals.

"Twenty years is a long time to have hanging over your head," Montgomery said. "If he messes up, that's what he'll serve. I think what the judge did was pretty fair. Lots of people were affected by this."

Montgomery also mentioned to remember that Denson served six months in the Cape Girardeau County Jail while going through the criminal courts process.

The men originally faced a combined 33 counts, but that number changed as they each made plea agreements with prosecutors in exchange for reduced charges. Victims made reports after they had been robbed that suggested the culprits stole whatever they came across, from televisions to tennis shoes and video games to guitars. But the crimes also included the theft of money and a handgun.

The crimes came to an end when the men were arrested in June after they burglarized the home of Martha Hamilton, a real estate agent. She and her husband were awakened by a noise in the night. When they went to investigate, they were told to stay where they were. Someone from the dark said they had a gun.

"It was a scary moment for us," Hamilton said. "I really hope they realize the seriousness of what they've done. It's a horrible thing."



Pertinent address:

100 Court St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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pretty soft

-- Posted by whube on Tue, Jan 15, 2013, at 7:08 AM

More and more of these people like this are going to be receiving probation because our jails are busting at the seams with over population and the cost of housing non violent offenders is blowing out the ceiling. We will see more house arrest of people like this and throw the cost back on there shoulders and not the tax payers.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Tue, Jan 15, 2013, at 7:26 AM


I agree with most everything that you said, but with more and more guns in homes and homeowners willing to use them for protection, there may be less and less offender going through the crowded and soft justice system.

-- Posted by arrestthem on Tue, Jan 15, 2013, at 8:35 AM

I realize they are young adults and they should be held responsible for everything that they did and their actions affected many people but burying them in the prison system is not the answer either. This young man is not off the hook. He must complete the Teen Challenge program and probation as part of his sentence. If he fails then he will go to prison. He has spent 6 months in jail. Teen Challenge is a very structured program and has a high success rate. By admitting his guilt and admitting that he had a problem and his guilt he has made one step in the right direction. I sympathize with the victims and their families not only for having items stolen but also for having the security stolen from them, of being safe in their homes, but they are not the only victims. These young men all had families and people that cared for them. Maybe part of their punishment should also be speaking to youth about what they did and how they have turned their life around. Lets pray that this young man has learned his lesson and can use this as a chance to turn his life around. Good Luck Mr. Denson and God be with you as you start the begining of a second chance, a new life.

-- Posted by stlthoughts2 on Tue, Jan 15, 2013, at 9:20 AM

stlthoughts2: "Teen Challenge is a very structured program and has a high success rate."

Teen Challenge has a rather lousy success rate. The numbers they crow about are all from self-selected participates and their most touted numbers (like their 86% success claim that is on most of their marketing literature) are from surveys done in the 1960s & 1970s because the numbers look better than anything they could produce that is more recent.

Every drug treatment program would look great if their results were only based on the people who fully completed the program and they can easily find a couple years later and who are willing to fill out a mail survey or sit for a phone interview. It should be obvious that those who go back to their addictions don't tend to maintain steady addresses or phone numbers and even if tracked down usually aren't very eager to fill out a mail survey or talk to a phone interviewer about their failure to stay sober.

Realistically Teen Challenge and every other drug treatment program is lucky to have more than 10%-15% of all the participants that entered the program still clean a couple years afterwards.

-- Posted by Nil on Tue, Jan 15, 2013, at 10:49 AM

Nil...you should do research before commenting..

-- Posted by stlthoughts2 on Tue, Jan 15, 2013, at 11:11 AM

I agree with Nil. I don't think felons of this magnitude can ever be rehabilitated. He spent 6 months in incarceration but that is a fraction of what he should have gotten given the severity of his crimes. A total disregard for others and a lack of empathy toward the victims by violating their personal space and stealing from them suggests to me that this individual is a danger to society, and should not be free to walk amongst us. This individual has already been given his second chance many times over each time he made a decision to continue his behavior. Why would anyone think that Teen Challenge can get through to him?

-- Posted by Beaker on Wed, Jan 16, 2013, at 2:24 PM

"Maybe part of their punishment should also be speaking to youth about what they did and how they have turned their life around."

Seriously stlthoughts, you can't be suggesting that these Felons have turned their lives around already just because you believe they took one step in the right direction to admit their guilt. That's mighty big of you to sympathize with the victims but you seem too willing to offer a "Get Out of Jail" pass by totally disregarding the rights of the law-abiding citizens who were randomly selected to be victims of these felons.

Wow - did you really just suggest that these law-breaking creatures get the opportunity to stand up in front of others and make speeches? HOLY SCHNOCKERS! I'm SPEECHLESS. I'm just LIVID over your assertion that these individuals be put on a pedestal at the cost of so many families who were stripped of their personal belongings as well as their mental well-being!

-- Posted by Beaker on Wed, Jan 16, 2013, at 2:35 PM

I know they have to prove it, but I also think you should not bury them in the system. I can see by several remarks there are a lot of perfect people out there. I agree and his sentence is he goes to prison if he does not complete program or does not live by the probation rules..It is almost like you want these guys to fail. Instead of that why don't you wish them success and hope they can turn things around..If they prove me wrong I will admit it..I hope all 3 can change their lives to be productive.

-- Posted by stlthoughts2 on Wed, Jan 16, 2013, at 5:22 PM

and Beaker..I didn't say to put on a pedestal...I said to speak to young adults about their failure and the lesson they have learned..LIVID..WOW...I am glad my God is more forgiving than you..You must have all perfect life..no one you have ever known has made a mistake..

-- Posted by stlthoughts2 on Wed, Jan 16, 2013, at 5:26 PM

Teen Challenge or prison, which has the best track record of reform concerning young folks astray?

-- Posted by Old John on Thu, Jan 17, 2013, at 12:34 AM

"It is almost like you want these guys to fail. Instead of that why don't you wish them success"

These guys had their chance. They blew it! In fact, they've had many chances. Prison time is needed for these guys.

"speak to young adults" - SERIOUSLY - going around and making speeches is putting them on a pedestal and giving them the attention that they so not deserve! What lesson have they learned? The only lesson I see that they learned is what they did to get caught. You want them to tell others what they would have done to avoid getting caught?

We are at the point where the criminals have more rights than the victims. This has to stop.

One more thing stlthought, If I ever knew anybody who made the brasch mistakes that these individuals did, I would expect them to go to prison for a very long time. This isn't about making mistakes. This is about being held accountable for the mistakes made.

-- Posted by Beaker on Thu, Jan 17, 2013, at 10:19 AM

Teen Challenge should be for Juveniles with offenses such as truancy, or MIP, or maybe even some traffic offenses. Not for these individuals.

-- Posted by Beaker on Thu, Jan 17, 2013, at 10:26 AM

As one of the 80 victims this trio of "serial burglers" robbed from, I, too, wish him well. We don't need to bury more young people in a prison system that does nothing but make them worse offenders when they get out.

HOWEVER, as a victim of these crimes, there is no justice that can replace the irreplacable family heirlooms they stole from us. They didn't take old jewelry, they robbed of us our memories. Each piece of cheap jewelry had a story of where it was purchased and the occasion it celebrated.

Did they care? Nope. They robbed us of something that probably only netted them a little beer money. Did they make a mistake? YEAH! 80 times over! I'd like to see a little justice, maybe restitution (sure, good luck on that) or even community service.

We have a system that coddles the criminals and punishes the victims.

-- Posted by Billy Bob Bob on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 11:10 AM

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