Created on Friday, 09 August 2013 Written by DAN ROBINSON, Times staff writer
Aaron Sells had a limited formal education. He takes medication for mental illnesses and is a follower, not the "ringleader" of a burglary ring, as the public thinks.
Aaron Sells is led from the Hardin County Courthouse Thursday afternoon after Judge Scott N. Barrett sentenced him to 12 years in prison for a series of robberies. Deputies unearthed hundreds of stolen items from the home of Sells' parents north of Ridgeway late last year. Two other men also were arrested for the crimes which included stolen property from throughout the state. (TIMES PHOTO | DAN ROBINSON)
At least that is what his attorney said in his defense in Hardin County Common Pleas Court Thursday afternoon. But Judge Scott N. Barrett wasn't accepting the excuses for Sells' behavior which he said terrorized the Mount Victory and Ridgeway communities through dozens of burglaries and thefts.
"I don't think knowing right from wrong has anything to do with an eighth-grade education," said Barrett as he sentenced Sells to 12 years in prison on charges of theft, tampering with evidence, safecracking, burglary breaking and entering. Some of the charges also carried gun specifications.
Sells, of Mount Victory, is the third of three men to be sentenced for the string of thefts which covered several years and impacted victims throughout the state. Deputies followed information which led them to the home of Sells' parents at 16363 TR 204 in Hale Township, where they found in excess of 700 items in the home and buildings and unearthed hundreds of stolen items buried throughout the property.
Jasin Rorabough pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was placed on community control for his part of the crimes, while Michael Moore was sent to prison for 96 months for his role in the crime spree.
Before being sentenced to spend the next 12 years in prison, Sells heard from two of his victims.
"I'm not a wealthy person," Michael Trout told the 28-year-old defendant. "I work hard every day to eke out a living."
Trout told Sells it had taken him months to save up money to purchase the Christmas presents Sells stole from his home.
"While you have been incarcerated, the residents have been able to sleep a little better," Trout told Sells.
But Jodi Pfeiffer said she continues to have problems sleeping since Sells and Moore broke into her Mount Victory home. She said the thieves took things which had belonged to her late mother, including jewelry she had planned to give her children. But in addition to the jewelry, Sells and Moore took things that had little or no monetary value, such as pictures of her son's soccer team and food.
"You were eating food while you were breaking into my house," she said. "It was senseless, Aaron. Do you know what hurt you caused people? ... I can't begin to tell you how many years this man stole from the people of Mount Victory and Ridgeway."
While it isn't an excuse for his crimes, said attorney Adam Burke, there are some mitigating factors which should shared with the victims and the public.
The medications Sells takes to control ADHD and learning disorders impairs his judgment, said Burke. Sells only completed the eighth grade in public school.
Sells has a history of being in trouble, noted Burke. He was shot as he attempted to rob a building near Mount Victory, but instead of learning a lesson from the experience, Burke told the court, Sells was awarded a financial settlement.
"Being shot should have turned his life around ... but the money had a negative influence on him," said Burke.
His client is not a leader, said the attorney. Sells was influenced by Moore to commit the crimes and is being sent to prison for a longer time than Moore. Prosecutor Brad Bailey said Moore¹s sentence was shorter than Sells because there was more evidence against Sells.
"There is nothing Aaron can do to go back in time. I believe if there were a way to do it, he would.," Burke said.
"What I did was wrong," said Sells when he was given a chance to address the court. "I want to get my life together and get an education so when I get out I can be a (good) father. I know I messed up bad. I feel a lot of remorse for it and stuff."
"Do you understand the terror you inflicted on this community?" asked Barrett.
The judge said he had studied the three cases against Sells and had taken special interest in the statements from the victims. He told Sells his sentence would reflect not only a punishment for the crimes he committed, but also a way to protect the community and warn others not to plan similar behavior.
"This kind of conduct will not be accepted in Hardin County," said Barrett.
Sells was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison and fined $600. He is to pay restitution of $4,174 jointly and severally with Moore except for the cost of digging up the property in Hale Township, which cost the sheriff's office $1,719. Sells was ordered to pay that entire cost.
Barrett gave Sells credit for the 254 days he has been incarcerated since being arrested in November.