Marshall County Prosecutor Jeff Cramer said recently he wanted to "send a message" that violent crimes and robberies will not be tolerated in the county.
On Thursday, that message was heard loud and clear after Jonathan Underwood was sentenced to 20 years in jail after pleading guilty to first-degree robbery.
Underwood, 26, and Henry Huntsman, 23, were arrested and charged with armed robbery and impersonating a police officer following a Jan. 25 incident in which they allegedly impersonated police officers and held a family hostage at a home on Ohio Street.
On Jan. 26, Marshall County 911 received a call from an unknown male who said, "There are two men here with guns," before the call was disconnected. After calling the number back, dispatchers heard two men ordering individuals to put their hands behind their backs and claiming they were law enforcement officers, the complaint states.
The men identifying themselves as officers allegedly said they were going to take anything in the house they believed to have been purchased with drug money.
After being disconnected a second time, dispatchers then called back and reached a juvenile, who said two men entered through the back door, produced weapons and held the occupants at gunpoint while they committed the robbery. The men loaded the stolen items, including electronics and syringes, in a red duffel bag.
A search warrant was issued for Huntsman's residence, where officers found several video games and cash hidden in a door frame. Meanwhile, officers arrested Underwood, who had the red duffel bag with video games inside, as well as a knife and syringes.
The victims confirmed the items were those stolen during the robbery.
Officers obtained a search warrant for Underwood's home, where they found more video games and other items reported as stolen. Two cell phones were also found, which contained photos of the victims, the complaint states.
Officers reviewed the 911 call and confirmed Huntsman's voice, and he allegedly referred to Underwood by the name of a current Moundsville police officer before stating he had ''a nine millimeter pointed'' at the head of one victim.
On Thursday, Underwood pleaded guilty to robbery in the first degree and was sentenced by Marshall County Circuit Judge Mark A. Karl to 20 years in jail. Cramer said the sentence is intended to send a message to other potential criminals.
"We're trying hard to send a message to anyone who may commit crimes of violence what their future is going to be," he said. "It seems that the only way to get that message out are long prison sentences."
Cramer said while there has been some concern recently over prison overcrowding, that does not affect how he chooses to prosecute individuals.
"I understand the prisons are overcrowded, but I can't take that into consideration when recommending a sentence even if it means the criminals have to sleep four to a bunk," he said. "If you commit a crime of violence in Marshall County, that's where you're headed. The Department of Corrections can release some of the non-violent ones if they want. These violent criminals have got to go to prison and stay there for our community to be safe."
Huntsman was indicted last month for his alleged involvement in the case and is expected to have his case decided during the current term of court.