District Attorney Stedman says it’s time to punish convicted burglars more severely

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LANCASTER, Pa.– District Attorney Craig Stedman testified at a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing in Philadelphia, telling the representatives that it is time that the law starts punishing convicted burglars more severely.

Stedman cited house burglaries that have become increasingly violent in Lancaster County, which may be fueled by the heroin epidemic that is causing more break-ins by addicts that are hopeful to find cash and valuables that they can use to pay for their next supply.

In Lancaster County, a lot of the elderly residents are victims and are targeted because it is believed that they won’t be able to fight back.

“They need to know they will face long sentences,” Stedman said of potential burglars. “No matter how big or small, no matter how extravagant or humble, your home is your castle. No one has the right to violate sanctity and security of that home.

House Bill 2018, proposed by State Rep. Martina White of Philadelphia, has been designed with the goal of putting burglars behind bars for longer terms.

The bill, if passed into law, would carry a mandatory minimum 5-year prison term for a convicted burglar who has a weapon during the break-in. Burglars who target the elderly – those over age 62 – would face a mandatory minimum 10-year prison term.

These harsher punishments would provide a deterrent for burglars, who currently face relatively short prison sentences for first-time offenses, based on current sentencing guidelines used by judges.

Stedman justified these harsher penalties by explaining that burglaries are not heat-of-passion crimes, and that they are premeditated and involve a planning of a point of entry.

“Criminals have to think about this crime well beforehand,” Stedman said.

Stedman added that violence is on the rise in these break-ins, and pointed to a pair of recent burglaries in Lancaster County which ended with one woman dead and another stabbed over 20 times.

Nicole Mathewson was sexually abused and killed during a December 2014 break-in at her Lancaster city home. Two men have been charged with choosing her home at random for a burglary and the crimes that ensued when they encountered Mathewson home alone.

In the other case, a man was convicted of breaking into his girlfriend’s neighbor’s home in Lancaster city in September 2014. Elswart Bodden, the burglar of that home, repeatedly stabbed a woman who was home alone inside. She only survived by crawling to a phone and calling 911.

In these cases, there wasn’t a proven drug motive. However, in cases with drug motives, Stedman told the group, there is no difference to a victim who fears for their life when an intruder shatters a window or kicks down a door to get inside their home.

“Intellectual discussions on crime and the financial costs of incarceration,” Stedman told the Committee, “must never lose sight of the brutal reality of crime and real-world costs to each victim.”