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Man convicted of stealing jewelry from elderly woman whose driveway he shoveled

Cary Ashby • Jul 9, 2014 at 1:37 PM

A Willard man pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing jewelry worth thousands of dollars from an elderly woman whose driveway he shoveled during the winter.

Tyler C. Branham, 24, of 881 Lakeview Drive, faces six to 18 months in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 20. He pleaded guilty to theft from the elderly, which was lowered from a third-degree felony to a fourth-degree charge, and agreed to pay the restitution, which hadn't been determined as of Thursday. Branham is eligible for a prison term because he has a prior felony conviction.

"We do not have an amount (of restitution) at this time, but we will at the time of sentencing. There is no agreement on sentencing," Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Daivia Kasper said.

Defense attorney Paul Dolce withdrew his motion to suppress evidence Thursday. Huron County Sheriff's Deputy Shannon Lyons, who investigated the case, was in Huron County Common Pleas Court ready to testify.

On Jan. 28, an 89-year-old Willard woman reported "a bunch of her jewelry was stolen," Kasper said. One of the victim's rings was worth more than $600 and a bracelet had a retail value of $11,000.

"There was an extensive amount of jewelry. It was expensive jewelry," the prosecutor said.

Lyons interviewed the victim, who described her jewelry, provided receipts for some of the items and identified Branham as the culprit. The woman reported she went to church with him.

"Tyler Branham had shoveled her driveway on a number of occasions," Kasper said.

After interviewing the victim, the deputy went to the Cashland in Willard, where he recovered some of the jewelry. Lyons, according to his report, determined Branham "turned in the jewelry for cash" March 5 and 6.

Lyons then interviewed Willard Police Officer Ryan Hall. The officer "said he had confiscated some jewelry" from Branham in January and the defendant "mentioned he had gotten the jewelry from a vacant apartment he was cleaning," Lyons wrote in his report. Hall logged in the items as evidence at the police department.

The deputy next interviewed Branham at his home and later at the sheriff's office. The suspect initially said "he found the jewelry in the vacant apartment he was cleaning," but then admitted he stole it from the victim, according to Lyons' report.

While shoveling the woman's driveway, Branham asked her if he could use the bathroom. Instead, he went into the victim's bedroom, which is across the hall from the bathroom. Kasper said the defendant then "took a handful of jewelry."

"He did it on a number of occasions. ... He met up with co-defendant Jamie Barnett and went to Cashland," the prosecutor said.

Barnett, 22, of 208 1/2 Park St., Willard, goes to trial Aug. 14 on one count of receiving stolen property.

Judge Jim Conway amended Branham's bond Thursday to $5,000 with a 10-percent provision. The defendant, who has been in the Huron County Jail since March 25, had a previous bail of $15,000.

"The state is likely to recommend a prison sentence in this case," Kasper said when addressing bond.

If Branham is released on bail, he is prohibited from having any contact with the victim and can't be on her premises or the Cashland in Willard.

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