Brandon Rimes, one of two men who drew comparisons to the Grinch after burglarizing their neighbors’ home at Christmastime, pled guilty to the crime and is due to be sentenced later this month.
Their victims continue to struggle with the emotional toll of the break-in, which happened when they were sleeping.
Charlotte Lovejoy, 88, and her husband, Del Lovejoy, 89, woke up on Dec. 6 to find the Christmas presents they had bought for their family had been stolen from their Oakland home while they slept.
Community tips led to the arrest of Rimes and Jason Horne, 26, who lived across Summer Street from the Lovejoys. Both were charged with theft, burglary, and criminal mischief.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said the nature of the crime led her office to push for a more severe sentence.
“It is different when someone steals Christmas presents. That just feels different to people,” Maloney said. “Christmas presents are an expression of love for someone else. When someone steals it, I think it hurts more.”
Maloney said Rimes, 26, of Benton, entered an open plea on Aug. 6, meaning that he admits guilt but wants a judge to decide on the sentence. Negotiations between Rimes and prosecutors broke down because they could not come to an agreement on sentencing.
“We really felt that he needed to go to state prison, and he did not want to agree to anything that removed him from county jail,” Maloney said. “To us, this is a state prison case.”
She said the judge will take into consideration the fact that Rimes took responsibility for the crime by pleading guilty and spared the victims the pain of a trial.
In January, Horne pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years’ incarceration, with all but three years suspended, and three years of probation.
‘I’m still scared to death’
Charlotte Lovejoy said the burglary has continued to undermine her health and sleep.
“I’m still scared to death, even with a security system,” she said.
The December burglary, during which the Lovejoys were robbed of $1,000 in Christmas presents, was the second for the elderly couple, following a break-in in September that has not been solved.
Lovejoy said she now takes medication for her anxiety and no longer feels comfortable sleeping without her hearing aid in, which Maloney said is more significant than many people realize.
When someone is asleep, the mind typically sorts through background noises, allowing the person to sleep through noises that aren’t cause for alarm.
“When you have a hearing aid in, every little noise wakes you up,” Maloney said. “A hearing aid can’t discriminate. It’s a huge effect on your life.”
Lovejoy also said she is still discovering that items have been stolen. Just six weeks ago, she tried to take out her husband’s good watch from its storage spot in the home only to find that it had been stolen, she said.
She said the occupants of the house across the street, who include Rimes’ young child and girlfriend, have not acted aggressively toward her since the arrests, but she still feels as though she needs to be in a state of high alert.
“I don’t think anybody realizes — to think that you were in bed when they were in the house,” she said.
As a condition of his bail, Rimes is not allowed to be on Summer Street.
Lovejoy said her husband, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is unaware of the connection between the burglary and the neighbors across the street and has continued to display his generous nature.
“He doesn’t realize,” she said. Last winter, after the crime, she said he saw “them putting oil into their tank outside with a 5-gallon can. He said, ‘Don’t we have money that we can buy them some oil?’”
When Rimes entered his guilty plea, Lovejoy, who described herself as “still feisty, and maybe even a little feistier than I was,” made the trip to Augusta to tell the judge how the crime has affected her.
“You better believe I was there, dearie,” she said.
The crime sparked an outpouring of community support for the Lovejoys in December. They received visits and donations from individuals and community groups, including the Oakland Police and Fire departments, the Town Office and Messalonskee High School, where Del Lovejoy worked.
Before Rimes entered his guilty plea, his lawyer, Thomas Tilton, refused to comment, citing his client’s right to privacy. Tilton is on vacation this week and was unavailable for comment.
Rimes is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 26 in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287