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First of three sentenced in 2010 Clare County crime spree

Two plead guilty, one found guilty in jury trial

 By Pat Maurer

Review Correspondent

Thomas Francis Smith 44, of Taylor, was sentenced December 19 by 55th Circuit Court Judge Roy Mienk and will serve from 5 to 20 years in prison for his part in a crime spree in Clare County last year. Multiple burglaries linked Smith with two other men, Lawrence Edward Reed, 52 of Detroit, and Lawrence Newson, 54, an inmate at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility in Gratiot County.

Smith, called the ringleader in the string of robberies, came to Clare County in November 2010 from the Detroit area “for the sole purpose to break into gas stations and party stores and steal cigarettes and lottery tickets,” Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis reported in a press release earlier this week.

She said, “They [Smith and Reed] broke into or attempted to break into … Dave’s Lake 13 Party Store, J & D Market, Surrey Point Party Store and Heintz Trading Post.”

They were caught in St. Johns when a store clerk recognized Smith from him cashing lottery tickets in the store the month before and called police.

Smith and Reed were arrested by St. Johns Police and Clinton County Deputies and found with the stolen cigarettes and lottery tickets from Clare County.

Their apprehension led officers to the third suspect, Lawrence Newson, who was involved in separate breaking and entering incidents with Smith in Clare County on October 16, 2010, when the two attempted to break into the South Marathon gas station in Harrison and succeeded in breaking into the North Marathon gas station, stealing lottery tickets and cigarettes.

“Smith came to Clare County twice, once with Reed and once with Newson,” Ambrozaitis said. “Smith only operated with one individual at a time … never with Reed and Newson together.”

The trio’s burglaries were not limited to Clare County. Smith has been charged in five other counties. Both Reed and Newson have also been charged in other counties. Reed has a case pending in Isabella County. It was bound over to Circuit Court for trial December 13.

Smith had pled guilty in Clare County Circuit Court last spring to four counts of Breaking and Entering a Building with Intent, with remaining charges dismissed May 9 as part of a plea agreement to testify “truthfully” against his co-defendants.

As part of his sentence, Smith was ordered to pay $9,364.50 in restitution, joint and several with Newson, and $15,621.53 in restitution, joint and several with Reed. He was also ordered to pay $272 in state costs, $520 in crime victim rights fees and $1,500 in fines, costs and court appointed attorney fees. He received credit for 93 days already served, but not for any time while he was on a “parole hold.”

Last week Smith testified against Reed, who, after a three-day jury trial, was found guilty December 16 of all 13 counts against him including two counts of Breaking and Entering a Building with Intent; two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Breaking and Entering with Intent; Attempted Breaking and Entering a Building with Intent; two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Attempted Breaking and Entering with Intent; Larceny in a Building; Conspiracy to Commit Larceny in a Building; and four counts of Malicious Destruction of a Building $200 to $1,000.

Ambrozaitis handled the case with Assistant Prosecutor Traci Akins sitting second chair during the trial. Clare County Sheriff’s Department Det/Sgt. Michael Coon headed up the investigation.

Reed will be sentenced January 25, Ambrozaitis said. He was represented by Attorney Jamie Raymond.

Ambrozaitis said the third suspect, Newson, had entered a plea to Attempted Breaking and Entering and Larceny in a Building on October 18, but has not yet been sentenced. His plea agreement calls for a minimum of 19 months in prison.

Smith was on parole at the time of the break-ins. Reed was on Circuit Court Probation and Newson absconded his parole. Smith and Newson will not get any credit for time served prior to having their parole revoked Ambrozaitis said.