Cass County resident sentenced for assault, breaking and entering

Published 9:50 am Monday, October 22, 2018

CASSOPOLIS — A Cassopolis man who broke into his girlfriend’s home in Dowagiac and assaulted her was sentenced to prison Friday in Cass County Circuit Court.

Paul Cleo-Clinton Werntz, 36, of O’Keefe Street in Cassopolis, pleaded guilty to third-degree home invasion as a habitual offender and was sentenced to two to seven and a half years in prison. He has credit for 27 days already served and must pay $1,548 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Dec. 29, 2017, at a home in the 500 block of Gray Street in Dowagiac. Werntz forced his way into the home, grabbed his girlfriend by the hair and pushed her against a wall, according to court testimony.

This prison term is concurrent with the one Werntz is already serving for violating his 2017 Swift and Sure probation from a possession of methamphetamine conviction. He was sentenced in March to a term of two to 15 years in prison.

His past record includes 2014 convictions for possession of a financial transaction device and identity theft in Cass County and a 2009 conviction in Berrien County for resisting and obstructing police.

Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Hubbert said the incident has had a severe impact on the victim in the current case.

Werntz acknowledged that his actions were “out of line” and that he had acted totally irrational.

“I apologize everyone. I let down a lot of people,” he said. “This was a toxic relationship.”

Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman said he saw potential in Werntz.

“There are some positives. You have a high school diploma, you have three children and you’re a hard worker,” he said. “You can be a productive member of society if you stay sober.

“I think you have potential,” the judge added. “I’m not sure if you realize it. Being in and out of jail is getting old for you at age 36. You’re at the point that you need to make changes or lose your opportunities.”

In other sentencings:

• A Florida man was sentenced for a crime he committed as a teenager 16 years ago in Wayne Township near Dowagiac.

Dustin Lee Moore, 34, of Lake Wales, Florida, pleaded guilty to larceny in a building and was sentenced to 18 months probation, credit for 54 days in jail already served and $1,728 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred in September 2002 when he broke into a home on Lakeshore Drive near Dowagiac and took some food and other small items. He was caught when his DNA was matched to a small amount of blood left behind in the home after a window was broken.

“You said you’re sincerely sorry for this incident and you want your daughters to be proud of you,” Judge Herman told Moore. “You need to tell them that the mistakes you make when you’re young can come back and haunt you.”

• A Cassopolis man who cut off his electronic tether will have the chance to stay out of prison if he’s successful in the Swift and Sure Probation program.

John Rolland Smith Jr., 35, of Marcellus Highway in Cassopolis, pleaded guilty to tampering with an electronic device as a habitual offender and was sentenced to three years probation, 150 days in jail, $1,908 in fines and costs and $1,075 in restitution. He can serve the last 120 days in his jail sentence at the Twin County Probation Center.

The incident occurred between May 4 and June 5 at Heddon Park in Dowagiac. He was arrested June 5 as a parole absconder. He had cut off the tether bracelet sometime earlier.

Judge Herman told Smith he needs to take this opportunity seriously or he could end up back in prison. Herman noted that he had considered sending Smith back to prison.

“I will give you one last chance,” he said.