The purported mastermind behind an armed home-invasion robbery in Chanceford Township that turned into a shootout was disappointed with the prison sentence he received Friday morning.
Chad Heath Miller, 34, of High Street in Felton, was sentenced to 15-1/2 to 31 years in prison, according to senior deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake. Miller pleaded guilty in January to aggravated assault, robbery and burglary.
Defense attorney Farley Holt said Miller was not the ringleader of the four-man group.
"My client is extremely disappointed (with the sentence)," Holt said. "He acknowledged on the record what he did was absolutely wrong and he sincerely apologized to the victims ... for all the harm he's caused to them."
Miller's three co-defendants are expected to plead guilty as part of negotiated plea agreements, Blake 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.
Downs' roommate, Andy Boyd, was forced at gunpoint to lead Miller downstairs to where Downs kept his safe, police said.
Meanwhile, Downs struggled with Herlth but stopped when Herlth threatened to shoot him, police said.
Canine assist: That's when Peaches, the victims' Jack Russell terrier/pug mix, began jumping on Herlth and barking, which distracted him long enough for Downs to pull out a gun and shoot him three times in the chest, police said.
But Herlth was unaffected because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, police said.
"So I aimed for his head (and fired)," Downs recounted, causing Herlth to stagger down the stairway, drop his gun and slide down the stairs.
Shot at Miller: Downs said he also fired at Miller, but that Miller also seemed unaffected. Police later found two bloody bulletproof vests and a handgun inside the shed of co-defendant Jacob Dittenhafer, police said.
Herlth suffered gunshot wounds to his neck, chest and hands; he was also was shot in the arm by the fourth co-defendant, Robert Dale Young, police said.
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, according to Downs.
Friday's hearing: In court Friday, Holt and Miller told presiding Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder that Miller had to save Herlth, who is his cousin.
"When this thing went bad and Jimmy got shot, it was my client who got him out of there," Holt said. "My client went back in, laid down cover fire and got (Herlth) out of there.
"But for my client's actions, there would have been at least one person dead, if not two," the attorney said.
'Completely ridiculous': Blake called that version of events "completely ridiculous" considering Miller, Herlth, Young and Dittenhafer were there to rob the victims at gunpoint.
"I was shocked at the audacity of what I heard," Blake said. "The victims were sitting in their home minding their own business when people with body armor burst in."
According to Blake, Miller told the judge he's not a bad person, that he just made a bad decision.
"The judge didn't take that so well, and neither did I," Blake said. "The judge said he didn't make a bad decision — he made a series of terrible decisions."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.