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Lifelong Felon Sentenced to 20 to 40 Years in Prison for Burglaries

July 6, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Robert James, 215.348.6332, rdjames@buckscounty.org

A Philadelphia man who last summer burglarized an unoccupied Bensalem residence and then terrorized a family who resisted his efforts to break into a second home was sentenced this morning to serve 20 to 40 years in state prison.

Lamar Caldwell, 56, committed the first of those crimes two months after being released from prison, where he had served more than 20 years for a series of burglaries and a federal firearms offense.

“Immediately the defendant returned to a life of crime,” Deputy District Attorney Robert James said in court.

The two Bensalem crimes were Caldwell’s 11th and 12th known burglaries, dating to when he was a juvenile, James said. Caldwell also was convicted of aggravated assault for shooting a man in the stomach almost 40 years ago in Philadelphia.

“You are not going to stop this. You have been doing it since you were a kid,” Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Diane E. Gibbons told Caldwell. “There is no question in my mind that if you are permitted into society you will commit another burglary.”

Gibbons sentenced Caldwell to consecutive 10- to 20-year sentences for each crime. A jury convicted Caldwell on March 15 of burglary, attempted burglary and several related offenses.

On July 29, 2015, Caldwell broke into a home on Buttonwood Avenue by smashing a rear glass door with a rock. He ransacked the house, stole electronics, jewelry and other items valued at more than $9,000, and caused an estimated $3,800 in damage to the victims’ home.

While inside the residence, Caldwell paused to drink a Coke, discarding the bottle on the living room floor. Bensalem detectives were able to capture a DNA sample from the bottle.

On Aug. 17, Caldwell attempted to burglarize a second Bensalem home, this time on Cheltenham Drive. The occupants were home, however, and a 15-year-old girl struggled to block Caldwell from entering by leaning her weight against an unlocked door as Caldwell pushed against it.

The girl managed to lock the door and awaken her father, who called police. Officers arrested Caldwell, who was still trying to break in when they arrived. A sample of his DNA was taken, and it matched the sample collected from the Coke bottle at the earlier burglary.

During his trial in March, Caldwell repeatedly disrupted the proceedings, threatened his defense attorney, Nathan Criste, and once tried to attack Criste. Caldwell chose not to attend the latter stages of the trial.

James said the burglary victims were so terrorized by Caldwell’s crimes and his courtroom behavior that they declined to attend the sentencing. “They wanted nothing more to do with him,” the prosecutor said.

“These were families 11 and 12 for this defendant,” James told Gibbons. “We are asking for a sentence that will not allow the defendant to victimize families 13, 14 and 15.”

Caldwell apologized to Gibbons for his behavior, and blamed his crimes on a chaotic upbringing. He began living in the streets at age 8 to avoid a violent, abusive stepfather and a mother who was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine, he said.

“My life just changed, and I was influenced by people in the streets,” Caldwell told the judge. “My criminal history goes back to my childhood.”

Defense attorney Niels Eriksen, appointed recently to replace Criste, said Caldwell had displayed no behavioral problems in federal prison because of the structured environment, and that he showed few signs of drug abuse or alcoholism. “It seems like his crimes are more opportunities for money and gain” than related to substance abuse, Eriksen said.

Gibbons said she agreed that Caldwell’s abusive childhood had much to do with his life of crime. “The people who should have been there to protect you didn’t,” she said.

On the other hand, Gibbons told Caldwell, she was troubled by the fact that “you don’t care if there is someone inside” a house, rather than leaving as most burglars do when confronted by an occupant. “You’re so angry. You’re cold,” she said.

“You committed one of the most dangerous crimes over and over and over,” Gibbons concluded in a quiet voice. “There are times when I get angry when I impose a sentence for a crime…There are other times when I’m just saddened.”

Approved for release by Jennifer Schorn, Deputy District Attorney.

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Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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