Getaway driver sentenced for aiding in Niles robberies

By DEBRA HAIGHT

Special to the Daily Star

CASSOPOLIS — Sentencings in Cass County Circuit Court Friday included a prison term for a Berrien Springs woman who drove the getaway car in a series of robberies last fall.

April Marie Dawson, 30, of Long Lake Road in Berrien Springs, was sentenced to two concurrent prison terms of three to 20 years for armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. She has credit for 214 days already served and must pay $1,548 in fines and costs.

Dawson’s co-defendant, Ralph David Fink II, 40, of U.S. 12 in Niles, pleaded guilty in April to 13 felony counts as a habitual offender third offense and will be sentenced June 3. He faces a sentence of 23 years in prison as the result of a plea agreement with the prosecutor’s office.

The armed robberies in Cass County occurred between Sept. 29 and Oct. 20 at Sunrise Liquor on Huntly Road in Howard Township and at Lenny’s Marathon Station in Milton Township. Fink was armed with a knife in one instance and with a gun in another.

Dawson’s sentence was shorter than the guidelines recommended in large part because she had cooperated with police and agreed to testify against Fink.

“This is a very serious case, but she did agree to testify against Fink and he did plead,” Cass Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik said.

For his part, defense attorney Robert Drake said Dawson hadn’t had a criminal record until three years ago. “She had a stable childhood, did well in school and had some college,” he said. “It takes your breath away how she found herself in this situation where she was driving around with a man with a record.”

“She’s been cooperative throughout the matter and was helpful in getting him to plead,” he added. “I can’t wrap my head around how she got here. She’s been in jail for 210 days and is pregnant and almost ready to give birth. She hasn’t made excuses. It’s not a typical situation.”

Judge Dodge noted that Dawson assisted Fink in his armed robberies. “You were the getaway driver and you knew and had a pretty good idea he was going to rob the

stores,” he said.

Fink was arrested just outside the party store in Howard Township because the store had been under surveillance after a string of area robberies. “He was apprehended soon after leaving the store and you shortly after that,” the judge said.

Dodge said that while Dawson has a past record of five misdemeanor convictions for crimes that weren’t the most serious, they showed an “ominous trend” as she’s “ventured into the land of capital crimes.” He added that she has meth-related charges pending in Berrien County.

In other sentencings, a Cassopolis man was sentenced to a year in jail after assaulting his girlfriend.

Ramiro Antonio Pompey, 25, of South Broadway in Cassopolis, pleaded guilty to assault by strangulation as a habitual second offender and was sentenced to 365 days in jail and $548 in fines and costs. He has credit for 144 days already served.

The incident occurred Dec. 8 in Cassopolis when police responded to calls of an assault. Pompey’s girlfriend said he was drunk and tried to choke her.

A Niles man who sped away from police on U.S. 12 was sentenced to one year’s probation and credit for time served.

Andrew David Clark, 40, of U.S. 12 in Niles, pleaded guilty to fourth degree fleeing police and was sentenced to one year probation and credit for 49 days already served. He must pay $1,318 in fines and costs.

The offense occurred March 21 on U.S. 12 near Gumwood Road in Milton Township. Michigan State Police tried to stop him for speeding and he instead led them on a 12 mile chase, sometimes reaching speeds of 100 miles per hour.

A Bristol man was given the chance to stay out of prison on meth charges.

Gregory John Bedel, 27, of Bristol, Indiana, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver meth, manufacture/delivery of meth and possession of meth and was sentenced to three years probation under the Swift & Sure program, credit for 156 days already served, completion of the Twin County probation program and $1,976 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Dec. 17 when his car was stopped by police on U.S. 12 near South Shore Drive in Edwardsburg. A search of his car uncovered a gun and $2,000 worth of meth.

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