AUGUSTA — For burglarizing eight homes in the summer of 2015 and stealing people’s jewelry to pawn to get heroin, a China woman was ordered Monday to spend an initial three years behind bars.

Meagan Leah Emery, 23, was sentenced at the Capital Judicial Center. The remainder of the 66-month sentence was suspended, and she was placed on three years’ probation. A second sentence of four years, all suspended, with two years’ probation is to be served consecutively, essentially keeping her on probation for five years.

She also was ordered to pay up to $32,395.97 in restitution.

The sentencing hearing came after Emery was dismissed from the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court, a specialty program that had offered her an opportunity to avoid the 15 felony convictions. Emery had no prior criminal record.

The charges against Emery resulted from a multi-agency investigation into a series of home burglaries that occurred during the summer of 2015. Homes in Chelsea, China, Sidney and Vassalboro were broken into.

“This was really a criminal rampage,” said the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney David Spencer. “These burglaries over and over again targeted valuable jewelry … You’re very likely, if not certain, to be coming across heirlooms and pieces that carry huge familial and emotional weight.”

He told Judge Evert Fowle that Emery scoped out the houses and stole the easily portable items, which she then sold to support her heroin habit.

One victim, Kathleen Kiernan, told Fowle she came home one day to find that her Sidney home was broken into and her drawers rummaged through and her grandmother’s jewelry taken.

“That evening my family suffered a loss of possessions and a psychological loss,” she said adding that her children asked, “Are they coming back, mommy and daddy? I’m scared.”

Kiernan said the children did not sleep for two weeks after the burglary. She said she would not forgive Emery for the “fear and insecurity” the boys suffered.

But she also said she forgave Emery herself.

“It’s a sickness,” Kiernan told her directly. “Just don’t do it again.”

Spencer read a statement from one victim who said Emery had stolen almost $12,500 in precious items, including heirlooms. Another victim wrote that Emery had stolen his wife’s wedding rings, one of the few possessions his wife, who is suffering with Alzheimer’s, could recall.

Spencer said most of the jewelry was melted down after it was pawned. Spencer said that Emery had been offered treatment in the specialty court program and clearly needed the behavior modification that prison could offer.

Emery spoke as well, apologizing in court to the victims.

“I am truly sorry for my actions and the stress and the pain and the sorrow that it’s caused everyone,” she said.

Her attorney, Thomas J. Carey, asked for a sentence of four years with all but an initial one year suspended and four years’ probation. Carey noted that Emery has been held on some of the charges for more than a year and completed a substance abuse treatment program in Limestone as part of the specialty court program.

Emery’s mother and stepmother spoke as well, saying Emery had also stolen from family, but offered her their support.

Fowle said he crafted the sentence after considering the arguments, the victim impact statements and Emery’s clean record. He said he also was familiar with Emery through the specialty court, where he serves as the judge.

“She lied repeatedly when she was in this court,” he said.

He added, “I’m not prepared to give up on Ms. Emery yet.”

He said the purpose of the prison sentence is to get her treatment for her addiction rather than send her right back into the community.

“At the present time, based on your track record, I have no doubt at all you will be right back into the drugs and with unsavory individuals that facilitated your access to drugs,” Fowle said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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