By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Residents and business owners in the Swiss Colony area were terrified after repeated burglaries and robberies just before Christmas 2011.
On Monday, the two people charged with involvement in those incidents entered guilty pleas in Laurel Circuit Court.
Joshua Westerfield, 24, of London, was recommended to serve 40 years in prison for his roles in the burglaries and robberies ranging from Nov. 16 through Dec. 12, 2011. Westerfield pled guilty to first-degree robbery of a residence on Nov. 16, a first-degree robbery on Nov. 30 of Ott’s Grocery that was amended to second-degree robbery, second-degree robbery of another residence on Dec. 6, and second-degree burglary of a third residence on Dec. 12.
The first-degree burglary charges carry a 10 to 20 year sentence while the second-degree carry a 5 to 10 year sentence. Robbery in the first-degree carries a 10 to 20 year sentence.
As a family member sat sobbing in the audience, Westerfield agreed to serve a 20-year sentence on the robbery and first-degree burglary charges as well as a 20-year sentence on the two second-degree burglary charges that will run consecutively after the other sentence, giving Westerfield a total of 40 years. Westerfield has been incarcerated since his arrest on Dec. 13, 2011. His time served will apply toward his prison sentence and his official sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15.
The armed robbery charge stems from Westerfield entering Ott’s Grocery on Nov. 30, brandishing a gun and taking money from the cashiers on duty. He then ran from the store and fled in a waiting vehicle. That incident was followed less than two weeks later when Ott’s Grocery was burglarized by thieves taking cigarettes and other items after breaking into a back door of the store.
Westerfield’s girlfriend, 30-year-old Natalee Wood, who was present during a residential burglary on Dec. 12 as well as helping with the Dec. 10 theft of merchandise from Ott’s Grocery, also pled before Laurel Circuit Judge Tom Jensen on Monday afternoon.
Wood mouthed to her parents prior to the plea that she was “scared” but was remorseful for her actions. Wood, who is from Ohio, has been free on bond since Jan. 23 of last year, just days after she was indicted. Wood’s father said his daughter was staying with her parents in Ohio, had been working and was “coming to grips” with her penalty for her offenses.
At times wiping tears, Wood stood beside her attorney, Ned Pillersdorf, and answered the questions asked by Jensen regarding her plea agreement. She was sentenced to serve six years for the participation in a residential burglary, with the second-degree burglary charge for the Ott’s Grocery break-in being dismissed as part of the plea. Of the ten-count indictment, Wood was only named in two counts.
She is scheduled for sentencing on March 15.