Niles man gets prison time for attempted purse snatching

Published 2:17 pm Monday, January 29, 2024

NILES — A Niles man with a long criminal record is going to prison after trying to steal a woman’s purse. He was one of several people sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.

Justin Michael Jurgenson, 41, of Niles, pleaded guilty to larceny from a person as a habitual offender and was sentenced to 40 months to 15 years in prison. He has credit for 149 days already served and must pay $258 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred July 2, 2023 in Niles Township. Jurgenson attempted to steal a woman’s purse while accompanied by his three dogs. He left but the dogs stayed at the scene.

The victim spoke Monday before the sentencing. She said she has suffered from anxiety since the incident and is now taking her own dog with her when she goes out. She said she’s trying to get her dog certified as a therapy dog. She also noted that she’s started to carry a gun.

“The dogs were in my face and pushed me into the side of my car,” she said. “I hurt my ribs and was sore afterwards. This was a Sunday afternoon after church and I usually have my elderly mother with me.  I was afraid to scream at first and then I did and a person came to help me.”

“It could have been a lot worse, the dogs could have mauled me,” she added. “It’s not fair that he’s out on the street. He’s not a good person.”

Jurgenson apologized to the victim “from the bottom of my heart.” “I will forever live the shame, I offer no excuse for my actions,” he said. “I can’t change the choices I made but I can correct my behavior.”

He said he had turned his life around after committing crimes in the 2000s and 2010s until his fiancée died suddenly in 2022. He then went back to using drugs and stealing to support his drug habit.

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith said she understood that Jurgenson had a lot to deal with after his fiancee’s death but he didn’t get the help he needed. “You went the opposite direction,” she said. “I have to make sure the public is protected. I can imagine the woman’s fear when she was confronted by three dogs. She’s very lucky to be here today and you’re very lucky that it wasn’t worse.”