Mass. man gets two to 16 for Berlin crimes
BARRE — A Massachusetts man has been sentenced to two to 16 years in prison for stealing family heirlooms and other items in five burglaries in Berlin in 2012, but questions remain about when he will start serving that time because he is already in prison for burglaries in New Hampshire.
Richard Morrell, 42, was sentenced Monday in Washington County criminal court in Barre on one count of burglary and one count of unlawful mischief, both felonies. Under a plea agreement, four counts of burglary and four counts of unlawful mischief were dropped by the state. Morrell pleaded guilty in May.
Police responded to four burglaries May 23, 2012, and one in June 2012.
The first was on Widow Moses Road, where Morrell forced open the front door, causing around $300 in damage, and took $50 in cash, a camera worth $200 and a black leather wallet. The second theft also occurred on Widow Moses Road, where Morrell broke in through a rear door, causing around $300 in damage, and took about $5,265 worth of jewelry and coins, as well as prescription medication.
In the third burglary, Morrell forced open the front door of a home on Bartlett Hill Road, causing around $1,530 in damage, and took a camera valued at $1,800.
The fourth home burglarized was on Richardson Road, where Morrell broke in through the front door, resulting in about $250 in damage, and took $200 in cash as well as a camera and a watch of unknown value.
On June 4 that year, Morrell forced open the front door of a home on Hill Street Extension, causing $5,327.65 in damage, and took around $9,350 in jewelry, $40 in change, roughly $100 in cosmetic supplies and two jewelry boxes valued at around $125. That home, however, was equipped with security cameras, and Morrell was seen breaking in and leaving with property belonging to the home.
A photo taken from one of the cameras was sent to law enforcement agencies and media contacts.
In June 2013, Berlin police contacted their counterparts in Lebanon, New Hampshire, because police there had executed a search warrant in conjunction with Massachusetts police on a vehicle and residence in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Some of the property recovered in that search was said to belong to the victims of the Berlin burglaries.
Police in Lebanon twice turned over property to police in Berlin. Lebanon police also identified Morrell from the photo from the June burglary in Berlin. Police say the victims of the burglaries went to the police station to identify and reclaim their property.
In court Monday, one of the victims, David McGraw, said Morrell probably figured what he was doing was a victimless crime because insurance companies would cover the cost of whatever he damaged or stole.
“What he is truly doing is stealing families’ heritages,” McGraw said.
McGraw said Morrell stole an engagement ring and a wedding ring from his home that had belonged to his wife’s grandmother.
“This is all she had to remember her grandmother by,” he said.
Morrell also took McGraw’s grandfather’s gold watch, an item with significant sentimental value. McGraw’s grandfather was a minister who would place the watch on his pulpit to make sure his sermons didn’t run too long, McGraw said. He told the court that watch was the only thing he had to remember his grandfather by.
“It has nothing to do with monetary value, but stealing a family’s heritage is a horrible thing,” he said.
Judge Thomas Zonay echoed McGraw’s sentiments.
“It’s devastating when these (burglaries) happen,” he said. “You are changed. … When you look at things, you look at them differently. You are a little more suspicious. It changes society.”
Zonay said no one should have to wonder why they were picked on, why someone would go into their house and steal from them.
Morrell’s own attorney, Robert Sheftman, even called what Morrell did “despicable.”
Morrell also addressed the court.
“I fully understand that my actions have impacted the lives of others enormously,” he said. “I feel low for doing so. I’m very sorry for the pain that I have caused you and your family. I apologize wholeheartedly, although my apologies will not negate the fact that you have suffered greatly.”
Morrell’s sentence is to run consecutively with his current New Hampshire sentence. He is serving a 1˝- to six-year term in New Hampshire on two counts of felony burglary and was transported back to New Hampshire after his sentencing in Barre to resume serving his time there.
Neither Washington County State’s Attorney Tom Kelly nor Sheftman could give a definitive answer on when Morrell will serve his sentence for the burglaries in Berlin. That will depend on whether he serves his full six-year term in New Hampshire or is paroled sooner.
New Hampshire Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo did not return a request for comment by press time.
Morrell has a lengthy criminal history, including convictions of felony escape in 2001, two counts of felony burglary in 1993, a federal conviction of conspiracy to possess heroin with intent to distribute in 2005, and a felony larceny conviction and two felony burglary convictions in Florida in 1991.
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