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Former funeral director sentenced on meth charges

Published 3:04pm Thursday, January 28, 2010

By AARON MUELLER
Cassopolis Vigilant

Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Dodge said he has never seen a fall from grace like this in all his years on the bench.

Last Friday David Groner, a former funeral director and owner of Groner Funeral Home in Dowagiac, was sentenced to two years probation, 180 days in jail with 85 days credit for possession of methamphetamine as a habitual second offender, maintaining a drug house and possession of marijuana. He will be allowed to serve the remainder of the sentence on tether.

He also must pay $699 in court costs.

Groner was arrested on those charges in late October and pleaded guilty to the charges in November.

Groner, 66, was on probation for misuse of funeral home funds. In 2008, he was convicted of failing to put paid funds by clients for pre-arranged funerals into escrow, a violation of a state law requiring funeral homes to invest the funds within 30 days of receiving them.

Dodge recognized Groner’s upstanding reputation in and service to the community before the sentencing.

“But you can no longer help others,” Dodge said. “You need help.”

Failing to adhere to his probation again would likely result in a trip to prison, according to Dodge.

“You need to face the fact that you’re developing a drug problem and could face a prison sentence in the future,” Dodge told Groner. “I don’t think you want to be 70 years old and in prison.”

Other sentencings Friday included:

• Preston Howard, 19, of Coloma was sentenced to three years of probation and two concurrent 365-day jail terms with 130 already served for three counts of conspiracy to commit home invasion and home invasion in the second degree. Howard was a lookout when Jeremy Bartalone and Justin Merrow broke into Dowagiac area homes in April and June 2009.

He was also ordered to pay $3,239 in restitution and perform 480 hours of community service.

Howard was apologetic.

“I would like to apologize to my family and to the victims,” he said. “Although I was just the lookout, I feel like I took the things. I’m very, very sorry to my parents for disappointing them. I ask for another chance.”

• Allen Lane, 45, of Niles was sentenced to 120 days in jail plus court costs for delivery of marijuana and maintaining a drug house. More than 3.5 pounds of marijuana and $4,000 cash was found on his property in September.

• Calvin Turpin, 38, of Cassopolis was sentenced to 365 days in jail with credit for 115 already served for failing to register as a sex offender in Cass County. Turpin was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1992.

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