A Casper man convicted of stealing a car and various items from a home near 21st Street in November will serve four to five years in prison, a Natrona County District Court judge decided on Thursday.
Dennis Howard was convicted of burglary and delivering methamphetamine in separate cases earlier this year. He will serve the sentences for both at the same time, Judge Daniel Forgey said Thursday.
Howard was also ordered to pay more than $1,000 in restitution to victims in both cases. He will receive credit for the 217 days he’s been at the Natrona County Detention Center since his arrest in November.
“I’d just like to apologize to my victims and to the courts,” Howard said during his sentencing on Thursday.
Court documents state Howard and his wife were driving around Casper late at night, looking for things to steal in front and backyards.
They reportedly found a home with its garage door open, and a Lincoln SUV parked inside with keys in the ignition. An affidavit in the case states Howard drove the SUV while his wife followed in his Dodge truck to drop the car off on Hat Six Road.
According to the affidavit, they returned to the same home and entered through an unlocked back door, taking unspecified things from a hallway closet. Court documents state neighbors called police and alerted the woman in the home that they saw several bottles of prescription medicine in the street outside.
The woman told police she didn’t know anything had happened until waking up and finding things strewn from her closet in the hallway. She reported her car as stolen and told police she had locked all doors before going to bed the night before, but had noticed her garage door opening and closing randomly leading up to the burglary.
Prosecutor Mike Blonigen said during Howard’s sentencing that the woman was 86 years old and living alone, which he argued should be an aggravating factor when deciding his sentence.
Because Howard’s car was already being tracked in an unrelated narcotics case, officers eventually located Howard and his wife at a friend’s home. The friend told police the pair had come over that morning looking for a ride, since they had lost the keys to the Dodge. According to her testimony, her boyfriend took them to Albertsons, Walmart and Fremont Motors where Howard got another key made for his truck.
According to court documents, the friend said she was surprised to see all three return home, since she thought Howard and his wife were just getting a ride to their truck. Around an hour later, the affidavit states, law enforcement showed up.
When the Dodge truck was logged into evidence, court filings state, officers found the Lincoln’s key fob, a garage door opener that worked on the woman’s door, her insurance cards and other paperwork. A checkbook in the woman’s name was also found in the friend’s car.
Public defender Kurt Infanger said Thursday that although Howard has a criminal history, he’s shown to be successful under supervision.
Follow city and crime reporter Ellen Gerst on Twitter at @ellengerst.