WELLSBURG - A Wellsburg man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in jail for entering a Hooverson Heights home and striking the elderly couple there in his attempt to rob them in May 2011.
Aaron M. Hartley, 21, of Wellsburg received the sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree robbery.
First Judicial Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson ordered that Hartley serve 10 years for each count and that his attorney not seek a modification of his sentence until after he had served the first 10, paid restitution of $500 for medical bills and the elderly couple whom he assaulted have died.
The latter condition was prompted by a request by the couple, both 87, that he not be eligible for parole while they are alive.
Brooke County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Barki III, who had sought a 60-year sentence for Hartley, said the woman has had nightmares about the incident.
Barki said Hartley knocked on the door of the couple's Elaine Avenue home, initially claiming his vehicle had broken down before demanding money from the woman while bearing a gun and pushing her down.
When the woman's husband approached Hartley, he again demanded money and struck him in the head with the gun, causing him to fall to the floor, the prosecutor said.
On Friday Kurelac cried as he apologized to the victims, their family and the court, saying he was "extremely sorry." He said since his arrest, he has turned from drugs, is expecting a baby girl he would like to support and is studying for the GED examination.
His attorney, Patricia Kurelac, said Hartley became addicted to drugs at an early age when a family member shared pain medication with him but was never violent until the May 2011 incident.
She said since being placed under house arrest, while his case was pending, he tested negative for drug use on more than one occasion, which can't always be said of others in such situations.
Barki said Hartley's background is unfortunate but the court should consider his actions on that day, the rough treatment received by the victims and its emotional impact on them.
"He deserves every one of the 60 years that we are asking the court to impose," Barki said, adding the sentence would send a message to others.
"The community needs to know crimes like these won't be tolerated," he said.
Wilson said his role as a judge is not to send a message to the community but to determine the appropriate sentence for the charges at hand. He called for Hartley to be placed under house arrest until Feb. 4, at which time he is to begin his sentence at the Northern Regional Jail.
He added, "He will be permitted to witness the birth of his child."
Wilson also advised Kurelac she may seek an appeal to decide the matter of whether Hartley may be charged with robbery twice for each victim at the home, a question he raised earlier.
Following the hearing, Barki said similar cases have been appealed to the state Supreme Court but without success.