An area crime spree, which involved the Aug. 18 armed robbery of Missler's IGA in Willard, netted a former Lancaster man 12 years in prison Wednesday.
Michael J. Fette, 47, will serve the term after he does eight years in prison for a crime in Logan County. The defendant, whose record includes two prior robbery convictions, has pending cases in Champagne, Fairfield and Knox counties and possibly Athens County.
"The court has a difficult time finding remorse because of the ongoing nature of the offense," Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway said before announcing Fette's punishment.
Conway imposed nine years for one count of aggravated robbery plus three mandatory years for a firearm specification. Fette will serve 11 months for possession of criminal tools at the same time; that conviction is for having zip ties he planned to use on the victims.
Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler recommended Fette serve a total of 15 years in prison. Leffler said the defendant "had planned it out," based on similar robberies he committed in other counties.
"It was a terrifying event for the individuals involved," the prosecutor said.
Leffler also told the judge "one of the victims was very emotional about it" and informed his office she wouldn't attend Wednesday's sentencing hearing. No victims were in the courtroom.
Huron County Public Defender David Longo said Leffler's sentence recommendation was "grossly inproportionate" to the severity of the circumstances.
"I realize he does have a prior, but that was 22 years ago," he said about Fette's armed robbery convictions.
"I don't think this is the worst form of the offense. ... Nobody actually got hurt. It scared the daylights out of several people," Longo said about the Missler robbery. "I don't think he got 100 feet (from the building) with the money."
The Willard Police Department recovered the $20,000 Fette stole.
On Aug. 18, a tipster who was near Missler's IGA alerted police about the armed robbery. The man flagged down an officer after he saw a suspicious vehicle parked near a trash receptacle.
Co-owners Janet and John Missler arrived at the grocery store at closing time when Fette came out of the back room. John Missler managed to leave, fled to the nearby Pin Oak Apartments and had somebody call 9-1-1.
Longo said in other similar situations, another robber might have shot Missler in the back, but Fette didn't do that.
"It could have been worse," the public defender added.
Janet Missler told the Reflector earlier that Fette "wasn't messing around" and suspects his plans changed when she and her husband arrived.
"The gun was cocked," Missler said soon afterward. "Nobody got hurt, but we are all shook up."
An arriving officer noticed a man walking toward a parked vehicle. Fette was arrested after a brief chase.
Police recovered $30,000 in cash, a .9 mm handgun, extra ammunition, zip ties and a hat Fette wore when he walked into the store. When the vehicle was recovered, officers found more ammunition, two more bags of zip ties and the defendant's ID card.
"We had a really great case," Leffler said after Fette pleaded guilty in early March.
"They arrested him on the spot. He walked out of the grocery store with a bucket with $30,000 in it and the gun. That's as good of a case as you can get," Leffler said.