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Home Invader / Burglar Gets 7.5 to 15 years in Prison

February 27, 2017

Contact: Antonetta Stancu, 215.348.6340, astancu@buckscounty.org

Christopher Upshur
 Christopher Upshur

A Trenton man who enlisted in a burglary and robbery ring that struck 18 homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in 2012 was sentenced today to serve seven and one-half to 15 years in state prison.

Christopher Upshur, 27, said he joined the group of roving bandits, led by his step-father, out of desperation for money to pay for child support, mounting bills and medical care for loved ones.

“I was really behind the eight-ball,” Upshur told Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Raymond F. McHugh. “I really didn’t know what to do.”

McHugh was having none of that. He noted that Upshur had been reared by an upstanding, devoted father and was surrounded in court by longtime friends and relatives still willing to support him.

“You’re not someone who grew up on the streets, who didn’t know better,” McHugh told him. “You turned rogue. This isn’t one act that went out of control, this is six (crimes) in Bucks County alone, that continued to escalate.”

Upshur pleaded guilty Nov. 29 to charges that included five residential burglaries and one home-invasion robbery from late July to mid-September 2012 in Lower Makefield, Middletown and Upper Makefield Townships.

The burglaries typically consisted of prying open a window while no one was home, ransacking the house and stealing jewelry, guns, computers, cash, and, in one case, a Lexus automobile. Three of the families suffered losses exceeding $19,000 each.

The group’s final crime in Bucks County was its worst. On Sept. 10, 2012, Upshur and three other men forced their way into an occupied Middletown home when a 78-year-old woman answered the doorbell around 9 p.m.

Wearing masks and gloves, the men – two of them carrying guns – pushed the woman to the floor, covered her face with pillows and bound her hands so tightly with zip ties that they bled. One man removed the woman’s engagement ring from her hand before the group set upon her 79-year-old husband.

The men pointed guns at the elderly man’s head, zip-tied his hands until they bled, forced him to walk through the house showing them where he had hidden cash, and hit him in the face. After more than a half-hour of ransacking the couple’s house, the men left with jewelry and cash. The couple’s losses totaled $24,570.

On Oct. 4, 2012, police investigating a similar home invasion in Toms River, N.J., executed a search warrant at Upshur’s residence in Trenton and found property from two of the Bucks County burglaries and the Middletown home invasion.

Upshur expressed remorse toward his victims, saying “no one should ever experience what I put them through.”

But under questioning by McHugh, Upshur claimed to have been involved in only three Pennsylvania crimes and three in New Jersey. He claimed not to have entered the Middletown house during the home invasion, contrary to statements by other defendants who said he was one of the gunmen. He also claimed not to have a clear memory of his crimes.

The responses appeared to anger the judge, who said he didn’t believe Upshur. “You need to admit what you’ve actually done,” McHugh said. “These are significant, serious cases.” 

Upshur’s father, Nathaniel Upshur, said his son worked two jobs and was a doting father to his young daughter before getting “mixed up with the wrong people,” including his mother and stepfather, who recruited him into the burglary ring.

Others described Upshur as a onetime straight-A student with a kind heart. His sister-in-law called it “mind-boggling” that he had turned to crime.

“He does have the ability to work hard when he’s not out chasing a fast buck,” defense attorney Niels Eriksen said. He noted that Upshur had no criminal record before his arrest, and that he has had no misconducts during the four years he has spent in prison so far.

Deputy District Attorney Antonetta Stancu, however, said that Upshur “did, in fact, turn to the actions that led us here today” despite having advantages in life that many criminal defendants do not. “He stands before this court today still minimizing his role in these crimes,” she argued.

Stancu said Upshur and his cohorts took hundreds of thousands of dollars in property from their victims, including more than $80,000 from those in Bucks County. A greater loss to the victims, she said, was “the peace of mind they were robbed of. They will never get that back.”

McHugh sentenced Upshur to serve seven and one-half to 15 years for the Middletown robbery. For each of the five Bucks County burglaries he imposed a concurrent five- to 10-year sentence.

McHugh also ordered Upshur to pay, along with his four co-defendants, more than $84,000 in restitution to five of the Bucks County victims.

Approved for release by Lindsay Vaughan, Deputy District Attorney.


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Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
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