Dowagiac man gets prison time for Niles vehicle theft

Published 3:20 pm Monday, February 12, 2024

NILES — A Dowagiac man who stole a car in Niles was sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.

Brendon Paul Murray, 29, of Dowagiac, pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery and receiving, concealing or possession of a stolen vehicle and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 72 months to 15 years and 24 months to five years in prison. He has credit for 89 days already served and $396 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Nov. 13, 2023 in Niles when Murray stole a car and gave the victim the impression he was armed. The Nov. 13 incident was one of several Murray did throughout Berrien County and Cass County.

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Jerry Vigansky said he was concerned about the degree of recklessness Murray displayed in the incident. He noted that the situation could have ended up much worse.

Defense attorney Carri Briseno said Murray has issues with substance abuse and homelessness.

“He was homeless and desperate,” she said. “He embarked on a scheme of stealing cars to have a place to be warm. He realizes that it was not a good way to get himself off the street. He’s remorseful about the fear he put in his victims.”

Murray thanked the police for arresting him.

“If not for the police coming, I could have been dead or hurt,” he said. “I thank God for putting me in jail. I want to say I’m sorry to the victims for making them think I had a gun.”

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith said that while Murray doesn’t have a long criminal record, it was “extremely horrendous” in a short period of time.

“You may have had issues about staying warm but you can’t steal from others and do it with force,” she said. “There are other ways to take care of your needs, there are resources in the community to help you. You placed your victims in great fear.”