AUGUSTA — Kristopher Russ will spend 15 years behind bars for beating a 79-year-old city man on the head last year with a cast iron frying pan after the victim interrupted Russ in the act of burglarizing his home.

In addition, Russ, now 34, will serve a consecutive three years in prison for trafficking in prison contraband — heroin — and for theft of two vacuum cleaners and a number of pairs of sneakers from Kohl’s in Augusta several days before the burglary.

The full sentence imposed by Justice William Stokes is 23 years in prison, with 18 to be served initially followed by four years of probation, while the remainder is suspended.

At a hearing Monday morning at the Capital Judicial Center, Russ pleaded guilty to a series of crimes, the most serious of which was the robbery and elevated aggravated assault at the home of James Young, who retired from the Augusta Fire Department in 1979 as a battalion chief.

Russ, who has addresses in Livermore and Augusta, broke into Young’s Augusta home on March 14, 2016, to steal money and items to sell to support his heroin habit. Young returned home from a visit to the veterans hospital at Togus and found a man standing in his bedroom, holding a cast iron frying pan.

Young told Augusta police the man said, “I’m going to hit you,” and then began striking Young in the head with the frying pan, knocking him down, before finally leaving with jewelry as well as Young’s wallet and his checkbook.

In a statement submitted at the hearing, Young asked the judge to give Russ 20 years behind bars. Young said in addition to physical injuries, he had suffered emotionally and now keeps a loaded handgun in his home. He said he has to visit family members elsewhere because they won’t come to his home, afraid he will shoot them.

Young said he believed he was attacked because Russ did not want any witnesses to the crime.

“I’m the only one that could identify him,” Young wrote.

Young’s daughter, Tracy Young Carolin, wrote to the court, “No person, let alone an 80-year-old man or woman, should ever have to worry about being safe in their own home.”

She asked that the maximum sentence be imposed.

“Kristopher Russ broke my dad’s shoulder, his hand and several fingers,” she wrote. “He beat my dad violently in the head with the cast iron frying pan and did not stop until my dad told him he had money.”

The suspect was identified as Russ when he attempted to cash one of Young’s checks the next day at a bank where the teller knew Young.

In a letter to Young, Russ apologized for his actions, saying, “I want you to know that I live every day with true regret for my actions.”

Russ told police at the time, “I think I was just feeling desperate. I was on the run. I had no money. I was sad. My wife was at home.”

Russ said he had picked up the frying pan from Young’s kitchen because Russ’ wife had mentioned a couple days earlier that she wanted one.

In a sentencing memo, Sherry Tash, the attorney representing Russ, said, “He was extremely under the influence of drugs, especially during his assault on Mr. Young.”

She said Russ wanted money and items to sell so he could stay high.

Tash added that an indication of Russ’ desperation is seen in a video in a police interview room while the police leave him alone briefly. Russ uses a lighter to burn a small plastic bag and then pours out a powdery substance onto a table and snorts it as officers rush back in.

Kennebec County jail officers also found heroin on Russ while he was being held at the jail on March 17, 2016. Russ pleaded guilty to trafficking in prison contraband for that and to charges related to making phone calls in June 2016 for another inmate to a person that inmate was forbidden to contact.

Tash listed Russ’ criminal history, noting he spent four years at the Maine Youth Center from age 14 to age 18 after pleading guilty to inappropriate sexual contact — a crime Tash says Russ insists he did not commit.

Russ previously did four-year prison stretches on drug convictions for drugs, and was released most recently in 2015.

On Monday, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said she was pleased with the length of imprisonment for Russ.

“It recognizes that the court saw the same thing my office saw: a person who represents a significant threat to the community. It is clear from Mr. Russ’ criminal record of 39 burglary and theft convictions that he was going to continue to engage in this activity and his conduct was becoming more violent. The victim of the robbery is lucky to be alive.”

Maloney also praised the Augusta Police Department for locating Russ and getting a confession.

“The victim was 79 years old at the time,” she said. “He suffered a broken shoulder and multiple blows to the head, but the worst thing taken from him was the feeling of safety in his own home. I don’t think Mr. Russ appreciates the devastation he has caused.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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