Men involved in Niles armed robbery sentenced

Published 1:28 pm Monday, October 11, 2021

NILES – The men involved in an armed robbery earlier this year in Niles were sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.

That robbery and assault occurred Feb. 25 at a residence in the 700 block of Broadway in the city of Niles. Two men and a woman were injured in the altercation in which one or more shots were fired and marijuana, cash and personal property were taken.

Police reports indicated that the suspects were attempting to retrieve marijuana and other items they believed the victims had taken from them. Randy Dean McGrath and Larry Ray Sarters Jr. were arrested shortly afterwards.

McGrath, 47, of Niles, pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery and was sentenced Monday to 14 years to 32 years in prison. He has credit for 207 days already served and must pay $258 in fines and costs.

He was initially charged with two counts of armed robbery, one count of home invasion, two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon and eight counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

McGrath apologized for his actions.

“I’d like to take a moment to apologize, I let my anger get the best of me and I reacted poorly,” he said. “I take full responsibility for the role I played. I did not intend for them to get hurt that day. That’s not the person I am or who I try to teach my children to be.”

“I wish I could take all of it back, my actions were very inappropriate,” he added. “I’m totally ashamed of my actions.”

Defense attorney Robert LaBre noted that while McGrath had been to prison before, he had not committed a crime in 10 years before this incident. He added that McGrath was trying to retrieve property the victims had taken from him.

Berrien County Trial Judge Sterling Schrock said he was at a loss to find the words to describe McGrath’s and Sarters’ actions.

“I found it interesting to read letters about your life and values, that was not in evidence here with the anger and violence exercised against these victims,” he said.

“I don’t know what the situation was regarding the property taken, but the circumstances of this crime and the resulting violence on the victims is beyond the pale,” he added.

Sarters, 45, of Niles, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 74 months to 10 years in prison. He has credit for 207 days served and must pay $198 in fines and costs.

“I have a lot of remorse for the impact on the victims, their families and my family as well,” Sarters said.

Judge Schrock noted that McGrath and Sarters pointed the finger at each other as to who was to blame for the incident and noted that Sarters appeared to get the better deal from the prosecutor’s office.

“This was impulsive, violent behavior that resulted in horrific injuries inflicted on the victims that is not describable,” the judge said. “What motivation was there for you over an alleged injustice pales in comparison to what injuries were inflicted. You are a dangerous person and acted out in an extremely violent way.”

Meanwhile, a Berrien Springs man is going to prison on a criminal sexual conduct charge.

Charles Matthew Host, 45, of Berrien Springs, pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct against a victim under age 13 and was sentenced to 36 months to 15 years in prison. He has credit for 74 days already served, must pay $198 in fines and costs and submit to lifetime GPS electronic monitoring.

Ten counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. The incidents occurred over a period of several years in Berrien Springs.

Assistant Prosecutor Kate Arnold said that the conduct involved grooming the victim to desensitize the child to Host’s actions. She said the victim has undergone counseling.

Defense attorney Tat Parish argued for a sentence of probation or jail of a year or less. He said Host has not had any violations while out on bond and has been a productive member of society.

“I’ve worked hard all my life and stayed out of trouble,” Host said. “I love my family more than anything in this world, I never did anything intentionally to hurt anyone.”

Judge Schrock said he was not going to sentence Host to probation when the guidelines called for prison.