A Tullahoma man received a 15-year sentence for masterminding a series of burglaries in Bedford County, while his codefendants made pleas for shorter prison terms.
Austin Lawrence Tomes, 20, of Tullahoma will have to serve 30 percent of the 15-year term handed down by Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell Friday before he is eligible for probation.
A jury found Tomes guilty in August of 10 counts of aggravated burglary, nine counts of theft of property under $10,000 and a single charge of theft under $500. He will have to also serve his 15-year term consecutive to sentences for burglaries he has been convicted of in Moore County.
Assistant district attorney Richard Cawley stated that Tomes led the theft ring which hit a number of residences including the home of former sheriff Clay Parker.
Cawley stated that Tomes has a long criminal record for someone only 20 years old, with multiple juvenile offenses starting at age 15. Tomes also has had an extensive drug habit that included marijuana, methamphetamine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and has no work history, Cawley said.
Russell also noted that Tomes had a led a "life of crime," over the past five years, calling him a "professional criminal," and had recruited and led his partners in the break-ins to the residences.
"This is an enormous amount of criminal activity in a very short time," Russell said.
Cawley also said that some of the items taken in the Bedford County burglaries are irreplaceable. The charges were only for crimes committed in this county, Cawley said, and there are more burglary charges pending for Tomes in Coffee County.
Following Tomes' sentencing, Joey William Ostrander, 19, of Tullahoma, and Christopher Alan Perry, 18, of Oakwood Place, Shelbyville, accepted pleas in which they would both serve two years of a 12-year sentence before being eligible for release. The pair would be on probation for the entire 12 years.
Ostrander pled guilty to nine counts of aggravated burglary, eight counts of theft of property under $10,000 and a single count of theft under $500, while Perry pleaded to 10 counts of aggravated burglary, nine counts of theft of property under $10,000, a single charge of theft under $500 and a count of attempted robbery.
Russell warned the young men that the sentences were "not as long as they could have been" but that there "was a whole lot of rope to hang yourselves with" if they got into more trouble after being released. The judge also wished them luck and hoped that they straightened their lives out.
Detectives from Shelbyville, Bedford County and Tullahoma had said the three are responsible for a number of break-ins in their jurisdictions, as well as in Manchester and Moore, Franklin and Coffee counties.
A break in the investigation came last December when Tullahoma investigator Jason Kennedy learned that Perry was allegedly selling items on the Internet. Perry was arrested at a Madison Street convenience store by Kennedy and Detective Sgt. Brian Crews of the Shelbyville Police Department after the Tullahoma officer arranged a meeting to buy a $400 Samsung Galaxy tablet for $220.
However, the detectives learned there was no tablet in the bag Perry was carrying and that he intended to rob the person he had arranged to meet. Investigators also learned from Franklin County investigators that a number of items taken there were sold at an auction house in Bedford County.
A burglary at the South Jackson Civic Center in Tullahoma last December has been attributed to Tomes and Perry by authorities. Both are facing a single burglary charge each for that incident.
Tomes and Perry have also been charged with theft of property for an alleged break-in last November at Tullahoma Jewelry and Loan where a number of handguns were taken. Ostrander was charged with theft of property for possessing and selling one of the stolen guns in this case.