Judge deals with three after pleas in chief’s burglary

Becky Campbell • Apr 12, 2012 at 11:04 PM

Johnson City Police Chief John Lowry told three South Carolina men they’re lucky he didn’t wake up as they burglarized his home last summer.

Lowry’s testimony came Thursday in Washington County Criminal Court during a sentencing hearing for Gareth Dustin Watts, 20, Robert George Danielson, 22, and Donald Ray Hurst, 21, all of Sumter, S.C.

It wasn’t just Lowry who was in danger that night. He said his sister also was asleep in the house when the three men crawled through a basement window they discovered was unlocked.

“I am glad I didn’t wake up,” Lowry said, adding that the three are lucky he didn’t.

Several items were taken from Lowry’s home, including three long guns, a black powder pistol and a laptop issued to the chief by the city.

Two of those firearms and the laptop were recovered when the three men were arrested at a Sumter hotel room.

“When I got the laptop back there was some child porn on it. The FBI has that now. I don’t know if there will be any charges from that,” Lowry said from the witness stand.

Lowry’s home wasn’t the only target of the three men. Over several nights, they broke into several vehicles and homes, taking things they could easily pawn. Much of what they took was sold to three pawn shops in South Carolina, they said, but it only brought about $500.

The men were charged in a 47-count indictment. Last fall, Hurst pleaded guilty in 12 of those counts and Danielson entered an Alford plea, or best interest plea, on 10 counts. Watts also pleaded guilty to several counts in the case.

Judge Robert Cupp said he was conflicted on what to do with the case. Watts has asked for judicial diversion but Danielson didn’t. Hurst has a prior conviction that makes him ineligible for diversion, but Cupp said Hurst is the one for whom he’d be more willing to consider it. He was impressed that Hurst voluntarily left the burglary trio after one night and has been working.

Cupp hinted he might allow Hurst to be jailed on work release if South Carolina would accept him. Hurst said there is a jail not far from where he works in Sumter.

“I don’t know what I want to do with this case. I only had one defendant get up here and apologize,” Cupp said, referring to Watts.

Cupp reset the case for final sentencing on April 27 at 1 p.m.

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