Roommates Andy Boyd, left, and Doug Downs with their dog Peaches at their Chanceford Township home. They survived a home invasion by gunmen when Downs shot
Roommates Andy Boyd, left, and Doug Downs with their dog Peaches at their Chanceford Township home. They survived a home invasion by gunmen when Downs shot one of the intruders, who was distracted by the barking of Peaches, seen here. Downs holds a .32-caliber pistol, one of about a dozen he keeps at the home. (Bill Kalina)

The purported mastermind behind a violent home-invasion robbery in Chanceford Township that ended with one robber being shot multiple times has pleaded guilty to some of the charges against him and remains in county prison awaiting his sentencing hearing next month.

Chad Heath Miller, 34, of High Street in Felton, appeared before Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder on Friday morning, where he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, robbery and burglary, according to court records.

In exchange for his plea, the other charges against him -- including attempted first-degree murder -- will be dismissed at his Feb. 24 sentencing hearing, according to defense attorney Farley Holt.

Chad Miller
Chad Miller

There was no sentencing agreement between the defense and senior deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake, according to Holt.

"It will be entirely up to the judge to decide," he said.

Blake said Miller is looking at a significant state prison sentence.

"I intend to ask for the charges to be run consecutively, but that will be up to Judge Snyder," the prosecutor said.

The case: Miller and James Lee Herlth, 22, also of High Street in Felton, burst into the split-level home of Doug Downs in the 3700 block of Brownton Road about 12:40 a.m. Oct. 23, 2012, brandishing guns, according to police.

Also in the home at the time was Downs' roommate, Andy Boyd.

Miller forced Boyd into the home's lower level -- where Downs kept his safe -- while Herlth held Downs at gunpoint upstairs, state police said.


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Downs struggled with Herlth, but stopped when Herlth threatened to shoot him, police said.

Canine assist: Peaches, the victims' Jack Russell terrier/pug mix, started barking and jumping on Herlth, according to Downs.

"He looked down at her, and that's how I was able to grab my gun and take care of business," Downs previously told The York Dispatch.

He said he shot Herlth three times in the chest, but the man merely took a step back, which led Downs to suspect he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

"So I aimed for his head (and fired)," Downs recounted. "He staggered over to the stairway, his pistol dropped out of his hand and he ... slid down the stairs."

Miller ran upstairs after hearing the gunfire, according to Downs. The homeowner said he fired at Miller, who also seemed unaffected.

Bloody vests: Investigators later found two bloody bulletproof vests and a handgun with an obliterated serial number inside a shed at the home of co-defendant Jacob Dittenhafer, police said. Blake said Miller and Herlth were wearing the vests during the home invasion.

Herlth suffered gunshot wounds to his neck, chest and hands, police said, and also was shot in the arm by the fourth co-defendant, Robert Dale Young, who fired a 12-gauge shotgun through Downs' door.

Herlth, Dittenhafer, 25, of Springfield Township, and Young, 27, of Lower Windsor Township, are expected to plead guilty after Miller is sentenced, according to Blake. The three men were set to testify against Miller, had his case gone to trial, the prosecutor confirmed.

Peaches, the 12-pound dog who Downs credited with possibly saving his life, was run over by a car and killed less than two months after the home invasion, Downs has said.

Defense theory: Miller's defense attorney said he hopes his client gives the judge a fuller account of the incident at sentencing.

"There are some circumstances that will be mitigating, as far as the aggravated assault charge," Holt said. "The only reason my client discharged his gun was to save (Herlth), who had already been shot."

Miller and Herlth are cousins, according to Holt, who said Miller had fled the home, but ran back inside to save his cousin.

Holt maintains Miller had to fire his gun "to keep the homeowner at bay" while Miller threw Herlth over his shoulder and ran to their getaway vehicle.

Blake has a different take.

Gunfight: "What happened here was, a group of people led by Chad Miller invaded the victims' house to rob them ... and it turned into a gunfight," he said, adding Downs was minding his own business inside his own home "until Chad Miller showed up."

Police allege Young acted as a lookout during the invasion, while Dittenhafer waited inside the getaway vehicle.

All four co-defendants had been drinking prior to the home invasion, according to Holt.

"These guys were drinking all day," he said. "They were drinking moonshine, beer and liquor."

-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.