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Man Gets 2 to 5 Years for Assault, Attempted Kidnapping of Teen

January 19, 2017


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

A Philadelphia man who inexplicably broke into a Bensalem home and assaulted a teenage girl who once had been his neighbor was sentenced Wednesday to serve two to five years in state prison.

Shane Joseph McMichael, 22, of Philadelphia, had pleaded guilty Sept. 9 in Bucks County Common Pleas Court to aggravated assault, burglary, false imprisonment and other charges.

Left unexplained was what prompted a young volunteer firefighter with no prior record and a good reputation to commit a violent crime that his attorney, Jack McMahon, called “aberrational and bizarre.”

Equally puzzled was Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey L. Finley, who sentenced McMichael. Finley said McMichael’s crime “chills the spine” and left him wondering, “What in the hell was going through this guy’s mind?”

On Oct. 4, 2015, McMichael had donned black clothing and a mask and slipped through an unlocked window into a residence in the 2500 block of Forrest Avenue, where he knew the girl lived.

Once inside, he used a length of rope that he had brought with him to tie shut the second-floor bedroom door of the homeowners, a couple in their late 60s.

When the couple’s 17-year-old granddaughter emerged from a first-floor laundry room around 10 p.m., McMichael charged at her from the kitchen. He punched her several times in the face, forced her to the ground, choked her with both hands and slammed the back of her head against the floor, the girl told police.

The victim could see her attacker’s eyes and forehead through holes in the mask, and quickly recognized McMichael, whom she had known for 12 years and considered a friend. She called out his first name, prompting him to stop the attack. He then told the girl she had to leave with him.

Fearful and stalling for time, the victim asked McMichael to first let her wash her face in the bathroom. Meanwhile, the ruckus had roused the girl’s grandmother, who managed to open the rope-tied door slightly and called out down the stairs. The noise caused McMichael to flee, and both the grandmother and the victim called 911.

The girl told Bensalem police that she and McMichael, while no longer neighbors, still socialized about once a month. She said that he had made sexual advances on her a few weeks earlier, that he struck her in the face when she rebuffed him, and that they had not spoken since.

Police went to McMichael’s home in Philadelphia, where they found more rope, a .22-caliber rifle and 16 rounds of ammunition inside the Jeep that he drove.

McMichael told police that he had gone to the Cornwells Fire Company that night to get his bunker gear. Saying he was upset over a recent breakup, he told police he got an “impulse” to break into the victim’s home. He denied intending to hurt her.

“I was afraid for my life that night,” the victim, now 18, told Finley in court. “Will I ever have the sense of security that reassures all of us we’re safe in our home at night? I cannot even begin to describe the haunting feelings left by him.”

She said that she had trusted and looked up to McMichael in the years she had known him, but that now she is unable to trust anyone.

Her comments were echoed by her grandmother, who said, “Why would he want to hurt her? She always looked up to him. He taught her how to play roller hockey out in the street.”

McMichael, who has been in the Bucks County Correctional Facility since his arrest, apologized to the victim’s family and to his own family for the harm he has caused. “For the past 15 months, I’ve done nothing but reflect on everything I’ve done,” he said.

McMahon described McMichael as the son of a Philadelphia Fire Department lieutenant and a retired Philadelphia police officer who excelled in sports at Father Judge High School. McMichael attempted to enlist in the Marine Corps after high school but was rejected because of an old sports injury, he said.

The defense attorney submitted more than 40 letters from friends and relatives attesting to McMichael’s good character.

“This event was a spontaneous event of limited duration when no deadly weapon was used, no one was physically hurt and is a single transaction in a law-abiding life of a young man with an excellent background…” McMahon wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Deputy District Attorney Robert James disputed those claims, noting that the victim suffered multiple head injuries and bruises around her neck. McMichael planned the crime by bringing dark clothing, a mask and rope, by conducting surveillance on the house, and by parking up the street to avoid detection, James said. He also questioned why there was a gun and more rope waiting in McMichael’s vehicle.

“Most frightening of all is his attempt to take the victim from the house,” James said. “He was deterred because (she) fought for her life…What scares the Commonwealth the most is, what was going to happen next?”

“It doesn’t just scare the Commonwealth,” Finley said.

“I don’t know what was in your mind,” he told McMichael, “and frankly because of that I can only guess the worst…I just don’t know what to make of it.”

McMichael has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that causes him to react inappropriately to stressful situations, McMahon said. An evaluation by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board determined that he does not meet the criteria to be declared a sexually violent predator. He will, however, have to register as a sex offender with the state police for the next 15 years.

In addition to the prison term, Finley sentenced McMichael to a concurrent 10 years of probation, ordered him to receive mental health treatment in prison and after his release, and ordered him to have no contact with the victim or her family.

Approved for release by Matthew Weintraub, District Attorney.

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