For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
The Washoe County District Attorney’s Office announced today the sentencing of a Reno man to prison for his role in a series of burglaries committed throughout Washoe County. Three other co-defendants previously pled guilty to related charges and were also sentenced to prison terms. Several of the burglaries included theft of firearms and one of the defendants was also convicted of arson.
Preston Wayne Heller, 21, of Reno (DOB 8/4/93) was sentenced on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 by Washoe District Judge David Hardy to 29 years in prison. Heller pled guilty earlier this year to three counts of Burglary, one of which carried an enhanced sentence due to the theft of firearms. Under Judge Hardy’s sentence, Heller will have to serve at least 7 years in prison before being eligible for parole. Three additional defendants in this case also pled guilty to related charges.
Jaysen Alexander Patterson, 22, of Sparks (DOB 7/7/92) pled guilty to three counts of Burglary, all of which carried enhanced sentences due to the theft of firearms, and one count of 1st Degree Arson for setting fire to a garage during one of the burglaries. Patterson was sentenced by Washoe District Judge Janet Berry to the maximum sentence for each charge, resulting in 60 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 24 years.
Francis Ray Edwards, 26, of Sparks (DOB 7/28/88) pled guilty to two counts of Burglary and was sentenced to 3 to 12 years in prison.
Robert Allen Donahue, 24, of Reno (DOB 12/23/90) pled guilty to one count of Burglary and one count of Being an Ex-Felon in Possession of a Firearm. Donahue was sentenced by Washoe District Judge Janet Berry to a term of 5 to 14 years in prison.
The four men were arrested last November. The arrests were the culmination of a joint investigation by Crime Suppression Unit detectives from the Sparks and Reno police departments, who were investigating a spree of burglaries that started in September. The burglars typically worked in groups of two or three in the late night and early morning hours. Their M.O. was to burglarize vehicles parked in front of homes and target unlocked cars and trucks, then use garage door openers to enter and burglarize garages. Property stolen in the burglaries included firearms, cash, credit cards and gift cards, personal electronics including i-Pods, computer equipment, and tools. Police were able to recover some of the stolen property, including three of the stolen firearms, tools and computer equipment. The majority of stolen firearms were sold before the men were apprehended.
After burglarizing the vehicles and garage of one residence in Spanish Springs, Patterson used gasoline to set the garage on fire, destroying the four cars in the garage and driveway and causing extensive damage to both the garage and living area of the home. At Patterson’s sentencing, the victims, a retired husband and wife who were asleep in bed when Patterson set the fire, told Judge Berry they lived through the nightmare of waking up to find their home on fire, then had to live the nightmare of the aftermath, including the feelings of anger and pain due to being displaced from their home while it was rebuilt and the loss of personal property, some irreplaceable, which they had accumulated over some 45 years.
At Heller’s sentencing one of the Reno victims described to Judge Hardy that her losses were more than monetary and that she had moved to Reno to feel safer in her senior years, but has now lost the sense of her home’s security and feels it is no longer the safe haven it once was.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Luke Prengaman argued that significant prison sentences were warranted for each defendant due to the repetitive, premeditated nature of the crimes, the injury to the victims’ sense of security in their homes and neighborhoods, and particularly as to Patterson and Heller, the fact that they put stolen guns into circulation “on the streets.” Prengaman commented that the sentences handed down by Judge Berry and Judge Hardy send a strong message to those who would target the homes of their fellow citizens for crime.
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks would like to advise the public that these types of criminals are opportunistic and active in our community. “Homeowners should take precautions against burglaries, such as keeping doors and windows locked, including garages.” He further recommended “recording the serial numbers of your property and photographing your valuables, especially your jewelry, so that it can be identified if stolen”.