Four defendants received active prison time after entering guilty pleas in Burke County Superior Court this week.
38-year-old Jeremiah Lane Hightower of Morganton was sentenced to five to seven years of active prison time following a guilty plea to two counts of felony breaking and entering, one count of felony larceny and his admission to being a habitual felon. Hightower entered a guilty plea on Tuesday (December 1).
The habitual felon status enhanced the sentence imposed on Hightower, who will serve his time in custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections.
Hightower committed the breaking and entering offense on November 19, 2014, at Big Daddy’s convenience store on Carbon City Road. When officers arrived at the scene they found the front door glass had been broken with a large rock. When an inventory of the store was conducted, officers discovered 42 cartons of cigarettes were missing.
Three days later, a second breaking and entering was reported at the Shop and Save on Bethel Road. Officers found the front door glass had been broken, just as in the previous crime. However, the perpetrator was not able to take any items before officers arrived.
Officer Ryan Stotts of the Morganton Department of Public Safety, along with assistance from Burke County Sheriff’s Office Det. Stephen Ritchie, developed Hightower as a suspect, and when officers interviewed him on January 4, 2015, he confessed to committing the crimes.
39-year-old Derrick Lane Woolridge of Morganton was given a sentence of five to seven years active prison time after pleading guilty to two counts of felony breaking and entering and two counts of felony larceny. That plea was entered on Wednesday (December 2).
Investigation by the Morganton Department of Public Safety revealed that on May 26, 2015, and again on June 2, 2015, Woolridge broke into the house of a neighbor working out of state, stealing a television and welding tools. He later pawned those items at a local pawn shop.
Woolridge had prior felony convictions in Burke County in 2013, 2010 and 2007.
28-year-old Jonathan Edward Barlow of Morganton pleaded guilty to two counts of habitual driving while impaired, felony hit and run and felony larceny. Barlow entered the guilty plea on Wednesday. He was sentenced to serve three to six years in prison.
Barlow was charged with driving while impaired by North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremy Allen on February 14, 2013, after driving a lawn mower along St. Paul Church Road. He rolled the lawn mower over while going down a hill, and witnesses noted he suffered injuries to a finger and his head in the crash. They also observed him holding a beer while operating the lawn mower. His blood alcohol level was .22, nearly three times the legal limit.
On May 10, 2015, Barlow stole a Chevrolet Blazer and a short time later struck another vehicle on Jamestown Road. He was apprehended after the collision and found to have a blood alcohol of .27, more than three times the legal limit.
41-year-old Jeremy Ryan Price of Swannanoa will serve at least five years in prison following his guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine and stolen goods, and his habitual felon status.
Price was sentenced to five to seven years after entering that guilty plea on Wednesday. Price’s sentence was enhanced by his status as a habitual felon as a result of felony convictions in Buncombe (2013, 2006), Burke (2007) and McDowell (1994) counties.
On Feb. 11, 2015, Price was caught stealing from Wal-Mart in Burke County and had methamphetamine in his pocket. Six weeks later, on March 24, 2015, a crossbow, two air rifles, a pellet pistol and binoculars were found in the basement of the home where Price was residing. Those items had been reported stolen from a neighbor’s home a day earlier.
Det. Steven Ritchie of the Burke County Sheriff’s Office identified footprints at the victim’s home that matched prints found at the defendant’s house. When Ritchie located Price, he was wearing the same shoes with the distinct tread that made the prints.