Archived Story

Twin Lakes robber gets probation, jail time

Published 9:23am Monday, June 23, 2014

The Mihalovs have enjoyed the tranquil shores of Twin Lakes for three generations, since the family’s cabin was built back in the 1953.

“This cottage was our retreat from the world,” said Joe Mihalov, its current owner. “It was a safe and peaceful place, with wonderful memories for our family.”

The sense of security that Mihalov and his family felt inside their lakeside home was shattered late last year, however, after their residence was broken into during a spree of breaks-in committed around the Twins Lakes neighborhood.

The person responsible for these intrusions will serve a lengthy probation sentence for his actions.

Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Dodge sentenced Eric Robert Szymonski, 24, of Dowagiac, to 314 days in jail and three years on probation on one charge of breaking and entering and two charges of second degree home

invasion on Friday. Szymonski had appeared before the court previously on May 12, where he pleaded guilty to the charges.

According to the court, Szymonski had broken into three homes on Twin Shore Drive in Dowagiac in December, stealing various items and causing more than $10,500 worth of property damage, Dodge said.

Authorities identified Szymonski as the person responsible for the break-ins after positively identifying him from footage provided by a surveillance camera installed at the Mihalov residence.

“When [Szymonski] decided to break into our home and homes of others, it created a community of fear,” said Mihalov, who addressed the court prior to the defendant’s sentencing. “No longer did my family feel confortable to live at our home near the water, without fear.”

In his remarks to Szymonski, Dodge addressed the intangible damage that the defendant inflicted on the lakeside neighborhood by his actions.

“I appreciate and recognize the significant damage that you’ve caused, both financially and psychologically, to these victims by your crimes,” Dodge said. “I hear this time and time again, that many times the most significant damage is the loss of security, the feeling that they’ve been violated and invaded, that they’re no longer safe in their own homes. That’s something you just can’t put a price tag on.”

Szymonski, who had worked as truck driver in the past, was on probation for domestic violence at the time of the offense, Dodge said. He also admitted that he was under the influence of alcohol during that time period.

“I apologize to the people of Twin Lakes,” Szymonski said when asked by the judge for comment about the charges. “I had lived out there, and I know they should feel safe. It was my fault for making that security go away.”

Despite the prosecution’s desire for a prison sentence, Dodge decided to go with the probation department’s recommendation that the court enter Szymonski into the state Swift and Sure sanction program. The judge explained that probation would not only provide a greater chance for rehabilitation, but would also help the victims receive restitution in a more timely fashion.

“Either this situation gets a whole lot better for you and the victims, or you’re going to go to prison,” Dodge said. “It’s just that simple.”

Szymonski was given 194 days credit for time already served.

Also sentenced on Friday were:

• Allen Wayne Evans, 63, of Elkhart, to 300 days in jail for selling nonferrous metals.

• Steven Carl Mosier, 27, of Dowagiac, to two years probation and 150 days in jail for operating while intoxicated.

• Zachary Hagquist, 28, of Vandalia, to two years of probation for possession of cocaine and marijuana.

• Jaquatia Lefay Allen, 29, of Niles, to 18 months of probation for resisting/assaulting police.

• Atanacio Junior Reyna, 42, of Dowagiac, to 90 days in jail for possession marijuana.

• Joseph Alan Morsaw, Dowagiac, to five years of probation and 365 days in jail for criminal sexual conduct.

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