Home invader in Niles area put behind bars

Published 6:17 am Saturday, February 21, 2004

By By NORMA LERNER / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- "We are extremely pleased. Justice is done and the public is protected. Cass County protects its elderly as this resolution shows," claimed Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz Friday morning in Cass County Circuit Court after Dejuan Tony Lowe, 26, 401 N. 5th Street, Niles, was put behind bars for 27 to 50 years for invading five homes in the Niles area.
Lowe was one of five who invaded homes of the elderly in the Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph County, Ind., areas.
Fitz told the court in all situations, there were three or more persons involved, and the defendant acted as the leader. The victims were duct taped, threatened they would be killed, with a gun to their head, and had their money stolen. They went after elderly, defenseless people, Fitz said.
One victim's daughter-in-law, LeeEtte Frantz, told about her father-in-law who has Alzheimer's disease who has a problem remembering his wife and daughter but does not forget about the two men who came in his home. He said they put a gun to his head. He was terrorized. Her mother-in-law went to a closet to hide and said God was taking care of her. She too, was frightened, Frantz said.
Another victim, Bill Bartak who was in the home with his parents and duct taped with them said his parents were not in good health to begin with. "They have gone down hill since then. I thought they were going to kill us. All three of us are fortunate that they didn't. It was a violent crime," he said.
Fitz said there was terror in the Michiana area with 15 families involved. "Their lives changed forever. The elderly were fearful to go into their own yards. They served in World War II, Viet Nam and Korea and deserve to live their lives in peace. Instead they were terrorized."
Defense Attorney James Miller argued that the victims were certainly frightened but were not treated with sadism or tortured. He said Lowe has taken responsibility for his conduct that includes cases in Berrien County and St. Joseph County, Ind.
Lowe apologized to the victims. He said he was going through rough times and knew what he was doing but was trying to feed his drug habit. "I was not in my right mind. No one was hurt." He denied being a leader. He said he hoped in someway they might forgive him. "The Lord has put his hands on me. I am sorry."
Judge Michael E. Dodge said Lowe struck one victim in the head with a pistol and stole $2,000 from him and $1,400 from another resident. Another victim with Parkinson's disease was duct taped and was threatened to be killed. "These are appalling and disgusting crimes. You intended to terrorize the elderly. They had to fear for their lives," he said.
Lowe received 12 to 20 concurrent years for the two counts of conspiracy to commit home invasions, first-degree; 12 to 20 years for three counts of home invasion, first degree; 25 to 50 years for seven counts of armed robbery; two consecutive years for one count of felony fire arms; and two concurrent years for nine counts of felony firearms.
He was ordered to pay $60 to the Crime Victims' Fund and $60 state cost in each of five cases and restitution of $5,869.
Others arrested so far in the case are Jonathon Haynes, who is being held in the Cass County Jail, and Tony Wilson and Michael Dameron, who are being held in St. Joseph County, Ind. A fourth person known as Fookie is believed to have been identified, but no further information is available.