Two men have entered best-interest pleas for stealing from the dead when they were caught ripping off the belongings of a person who had just died.
Jesse Randal Fitts, 49, got the biggest sentence of the two after he entered a no-contest plea to charges of burglary and theft. He was ordered by Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley to serve 30 days of a three-year sentence, perform 40 hours public service work, and pay $75 plus costs.
His partner in crime, Benjamine Otis Jennings, 21, was granted an 11-month, 29-day judicial diversion and must perform 24 hours public service work and pay $75 plus costs. The judicial diversion means he can have his criminal record erased once his probation is over.
The men were caught by sheriff’s deputy Kelly Carter, who was on patrol on Davis Street.
“I noticed a pickup with a trailer backed in there and I knew the owner had passed away in November of last year and had no family living in the area,” Carter said.
Carter stopped and talked to the men. During his conversation he noticed the men had loaded items into the trailer. The items included a stand-up air compressor, two stand-up tool boxes with tools, a gas weed eater, car jacks, and a battery charger. Those items had been taken from a utility shed near the house. Still more items, taken from the house, were found in the trailer. Those items included a refrigerator, knife, and computer camera from the house. The items were worth well in excess of $1,000, making the crime a felony.
“They claimed the building had been sold and they were cleaning it out,” Carter recalled, noting he challenged their story by calling the descendant’s next of kin. “I contacted the sister of the deceased and she said no one should be at the residence taking anything from it.”
The no-contest plea means Fitts is not admitting guilt, but legally the plea goes down the same as a straight guilty plea.