STANTON — A duo and a trio of local youths have pleaded guilty to a slew of destructive breaking and entering and vandalism crimes throughout northeastern Montcalm County this summer.
All five young men are hoping to receive Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) status, a Michigan law giving a judge the option to withhold a conviction for certain offenders between the age of 17 and 21. The offender can ultimately avoid having a conviction on their record if they successfully complete a training program and convince the judge they are rehabilitated.
Brock Peterson, 17, of Vestaburg, and Joseph DeVuyst, 17, of Riverdale, were arrested and charged in early August. Petersen was charged with 17 crimes, while DeVuyst was charged with 12 crimes.
Montcalm County Sheriff’s deputies responded to six breaking and entering incidents from July 3 through July 15 in the Vestaburg area.
Walker’s of Vestaburg was broken into three times and sustained about $4,000 in damages, including the theft of collectible replica farm equipment and vehicles. Vestaburg Cart Speed Shop was broken into and sustained about $6,200 in damages, including the theft of racing equipment and tools. Vestaburg Automotive was broken into and sustained several hundred dollars’ worth of damages.
Vestaburg Community School was also broken into and vandalized, sustaining at least $20,000 in damages. Vandals used a cinderblock to break through a skylight in the school’s ceiling. From there, they used the cinderblock and a hammer to break into the teacher’s lounge and then the kindergarten wing, upper elementary and high school lobby. A kindergarten classroom sustained the most damage.
Numerous people in the Vestaburg community called the sheriff’s office with tips about the suspects. Through investigation, detectives were able to issue a search warrant at a Vestaburg home and recover more than 160 stolen pieces of property, including tools, racing apparel and numerous collector’s grade toy replica farm equipment pieces. The majority of the stolen pieces have been returned to the owners.
Although the collectible replica farm equipment and vehicles were recovered, they had been removed from their boxes and the boxes had been destroyed, deeply hurting the collector’s value of the items.
Peterson and DeVuyst recently pleaded guilty in 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Stanton to four charges each. They will be sentenced at a later date.
While the other charges will be dropped in exchange for their pleas, the two youths will be required to pay financial restitution in all cases.
DeVuyst and Peterson, both of whom were students at Vestaburg Community School, were suspended from the school they vandalized, but they will be allowed to attend an alternative education program to make up their classes. They are allowed to attend the program together, but cannot have any contact with each other in class or outside of class.
A 15-year-old Vestaburg male is also being charged in the Vestaburg criminal cases through Montcalm County Probate Court. The Daily News does not typically print the names of minors.
Gratiot County gang
Three young Gratiot County men were arrested and charged in July after a rash of break-ins in late May throughout the northeastern corner of Montcalm County.
Nicholas James Randall, 17, of Riverdale, Chadwick Thomas Duncan, 18, of Riverdale, and Jackson William Hollenbeck, 17, of Alma were each charged with breaking and entering.
A series of break-ins occurred early the morning of May 30. Victims included Maxfield’s Restaurant north of Edmore, the Farmer in the Dell at Crystal Road and M-46 in Vestaburg, the Dollar General in Vestaburg and Ferris Church of Christ in Vestaburg.
The police investigation included officers from seven agencies within multiple counties.
All three young man recently pleaded guilty in 8th Judicial Circuit Court to one count of breaking and entering-related charges. They will be sentenced at a later date.