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Lake Andes man imprisoned for burglaries, elder abuse

LAKE ANDES -- A 21-year-old man was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for his involvement in burglaries and elder abuse in May 2011.

Austin Blaine, of Lake Andes, pleaded guilty on March 5 to first-degree burglary, second-degree robbery and elder abuse. He appeared at his sentencing hearing Monday at the Charles Mix County Courthouse in an orange jail jumpsuit.

The charges stem from incidents at two Lake Andes homes the night of May 7, 2011. According to Charles Mix County State's Attorney Pam Hein, Gunner Olson, 20, has also been charged in connection with the burglaries. Another juvenile suspected to have been involved has not yet been charged.

Among the items stolen from the homes were jewelry, electronics and prescription drugs. An elderly woman was injured in the second incident.

District Judge Bruce Anderson sentenced Blaine to 20 years in prison with 15 years suspended for first-degree burglary, 10 years in prison with 7.5 years suspended for second-degree robbery and two years in prison for elder abuse. Anderson ordered the sentences be served concurrently.

"I just don't understand why they had to do this," said Elizabeth Perry, one of the burglary victims.

Perry spoke in court before the sentence was given. She said she was in Sioux Falls celebrating Mother's Day with family when the crime took place and many of the items taken or damaged in the burglary were from her father's funeral, which occurred not long before the incident.

The other victim, 86-year-old Geneva Haar, did not appear in court, but her granddaughter Marcy Houseman spoke on her behalf.

"She did not deserve any of what you boys did to her that night," she said.

Although the indictment charges Blaine with striking Haar during the burglary, he denied the act in court Monday. Haar suffered bruises on her face as a result of the incident.

Since the incident involving Blaine, Houseman said Haar was the victim of another unrelated break-in.

"She has always been a proud community member here," Houseman said. "But because of people like you, she's moving."

After hearing the victims' statements, Hein requested Blaine be sentenced to 25 years in prison.

"He needs to be a man," Hein said. "The community will not stand for these kinds of violations."

Blaine's attorney, Keith Goehring, of Parkston, asked for leniency based on Blaine's age and potential for rehabilitation.

In his own statement, Blaine apologized to the victims.

"I wish I could take it all back," Blaine told the court, adding he would do whatever was asked of him to get back to his wife and children.

"Hopefully, I can show people I'm not the bad person they think I am today," he said.

As a condition of his sentence, Blaine is not allowed to reside in Charles Mix or Douglas counties after he is released from prison.

"There's no opportunity here and you know that," Anderson said. "You're getting out of here and moving on with your life, and getting a job."

Blaine will also be required to pay restitution in an amount yet to be determined by the court.