A teen serial burglar who broke into 18 Columbia houses in various neighborhoods — in at least one case posing as a youth who wanted to rake yards — was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday.
Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr. gave the prison stint to 19-year-old Donquiese Green after hearing a harrowing statement by burglary victim Bryan Stirling and learning that Green had been out of jail on probation when committing a string of burglaries, from the Rosewood to North Main Street neighborhoods, mostly when he was 16 years old.
Green, shackled hand and foot in steel chains and dressed in dark blue prison garb, pleaded guilty to Stirling’s burglary and other break-ins but had little else to say.
But Stirling had plenty to say.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“My life — by his actions — has been altered,” Stirling told Cooper. “I no longer feel safe in my house.”
In November 2009, a week before his house in the Shandon-Rose Hill neighborhood was burglarized, Stirling said, Green and two other men had come onto his street with rakes and started to approach a neighbor’s house. The neighbor was an elderly woman who lived alone, and Stirling called out to Green, telling him that he and the woman’s brother rake leaves in that yard.
Green appeared to take offense at what Stirling said and “very aggressively” walked over to him, Stirling told Cooper. As Green walked away, he stared at Stirling.
“I think the defendant was there with the rakes as a ruse. They were there to canvass the neighborhood, to see who had weaknesses,” said Stirling, who happens to be a deputy state attorney general.
A few days later, when Stirling was out of town, his house was broken into in the middle of the night. Police later linked Green to that break-in, based on a fingerprint Columbia police found on a window pane.
“I think he came back to my house as payback because I scared him off,” Stirling said.
Stirling described what he found after Green’s burglary: His 32-inch television had been ripped off the shelf and his belongings were strewn on the floor. Pictures were knocked off the walls.
“They had to climb over a fence to get into my back yard. ...They kicked the door so hard they broke the casing around the door and they broke the drywall off,” Stirling said.
Green’s lawyer, Johnny Watson, tried to get Cooper to sentence Green to “time served” – the 2½ years that Green has been in Richland County’s Alvin Glenn Detention Center awaiting trial.
“He’s been in jail since he was a 16-year-old. He turned 17 in jail, he turned 18 in jail, and he had his birthday this past week and turned 19 in jail,” Watson told Cooper. “He’s spent 912 days in jail.”
Watson also said that Green was one of 12 children born to his mother and his father and that his father had had six additional children and didn’t spend any time with Green.
“He has had no supervision, no adult male in his life,” Watson said.
Since being in jail, Watson told Cooper, Green has earned a high-school equivalency degree. And, Watson said, Green confessed to 18 burglaries in all, helping police solve crimes that otherwise wouldn’t have been cleared.
That didn’t impress Stirling, who viewed Green as someone who had already had a second chance and used it to burglarize homes.
“He’s been in jail — that’s the only reason he has not committed other crimes,” Stirling told Cooper.
These days, Stirling said, he has a security system in his house. When he leaves home, he braces chairs against the inside of his doors. He calls the Columbia police to ride by and asks the neighbors to check on his house.
In the middle of the night, he wonders if it might happen again. “When I wake, I go check every lock in the house,” he said. “It’s very disconcerting to have to live that way.”
Green’s 10-year sentence was what 5th Judicial Circuit assistant solicitor Hans Pauling had requested. Due to the nature of the offenses — because he broke in at night — the teen was sentenced as an adult.