Convicted armed robber Ryan L. Sternberg told the victims of four convenience store robberies that he was sorry for "the pain and agony I inflicted on you and your family."
Sternberg, 21, formerly of 13303 Milliman Road, said the memories of the fall incidents are unimaginable and have tormented him. He said the facial expressions on the clerk's face when he entered the C-Stop Food Store in Collins with a pellet gun are "scarred" on his mind.
"Nobody should ever go through that kind of pain. ... If I could take it all away, I would," Sternberg said, stressing that he never intended to harm anyone.
"There is no excuse for what I did."
This morning, Huron County Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey sentenced Sternberg and his older cousin, Michael J. Hendrickson, 23, of Vermilion, to 10 years in prison. He ordered the co-defendants to each pay about $2,850 in restitution to three businesses.
The cousins earlier pleaded guilty to two counts each of aggravated robbery, first-degree felonies, for the Oct. 28 incident at Hy-Miler and the Nov. 10 incident at the C-Stop. The state agreed to dismiss the remaining robbery charges stemming from another Hy-Miler armed robbery and one at Austin's Westside Sunoco.
Sternberg was the getaway driver for one Hy-Miler robbery. Hendrickson was the gunman during the other three incidents.
Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said "people were scared" afterward and will have difficulty forgetting what happened, "especially the girl at Austin's who had a gun stuck in her face."
Both men admitted during separate interviews with sheriff's deputies that they committed the crimes to get money to fuel heroin addictions.
"It's a sad case," McGimpsey said, "but it's something the community needs to pay attention to because heroin addiction is (running) rampant in this community."
Sternberg's defense attorney, Benjamin Chapman, said his client appeared to be "very strung out on something" when Sternberg admitted to his part in the four robberies.
"When you take the drugs out of the picture, Ryan doesn't commit the crimes," Chapman added. He stressed that Sternberg "cooperated 100 percent" with deputies and brought them to Erie County to recover one of the weapons.
"I dragged him into it," Hendrickson said. "My cousin and I come from a Christian family. We got mixed around in the wrong crowd.
"I came there (to jail) sick from drugs," he continued. "I never want to experience that again. Sickness from drugs is horrible."
On Nov. 14, Sgt. Annette McLaughlin arrested Sternberg during a North Ridge Road traffic stop for driving with a loud exhaust. Hendrickson turned himself into deputies the next day.
Sternberg will serve his new prison term after he completes an 11-month term at Belmont Correctional Institution for two probation violations out of a local 2005 trafficking in marijuana conviction.