Friday, May 30th, 2014
Teen gets almost 27 years
Ball threatened men with weapons in home invasion
By Shelley Grieshop
MINSTER - An 18-year-old Marion Local graduate was sentenced Thursday to a total of 26 1/2 years in prison for threatening an elderly man and his son with weapons in a home invasion in February.
Austin B. Ball - who also faces desertion charges for being absent without leave from the U.S. Marine Corps - told Auglaize County Judge Frederick Pepple he committed the crime in rural Minster to obtain a vehicle to see his girlfriend in Hamilton.
Ball on Thursday agreed to plead guilty to aggravated burglary and kidnapping, first-degree felonies with gun specifications, and receiving stolen property, a fourth-degree felony, in exchange for dismissal of another aggravated robbery and kidnapping charge and a theft charge.
The prison terms - 11 years each for the first-degree felonies and 18 months for the fourth-degree felony - were ordered to run consecutively to the mandatory three-year term he will serve first for use of a weapon during the crime. Ball could be eligible for parole after serving 11 years and nine months in prison.
The sentence was the maximum the court could order. Ball cannot appeal the sentencing because it was jointly agreed upon by him and his counsel, Eric Wilson, and assistant prosecutor Andy Augsburger, the judge said.
No one was in the courtroom in support of Ball. His attorney asked the judge to delay sentencing until the teen's mother could be present, but the request was denied.
The victims, Walter Heitkamp, 75, and his son, Craig, 32, were in attendance. Craig Heitkamp was granted permission to speak before sentencing and directed his comments and anger toward Ball, who was restrained by hand and ankle cuffs.
"It's hard to believe this kid graduated from the same school I did. ... My dad is 75 years old. He could have had a heart attack," he said sternly.
He recalled Ball threatening he and his father with revenge if he was caught and sentenced to 15 years in prison for grand theft auto.
"Fifteen years and you're going to come back and cut our hearts out? I don't forget that," Heitkamp said angrily.
According to the stipulation of facts read in court by Augsburger, Ball had walked about three miles from his home when he stopped at the Heitkamp residence on Amsterdam Road about 1:30 p.m. Feb. 26. In his possession was a revolver he stole from his mother and a 6- to 8-inch knife his grandfather received as a souvenir in World War II.
Ball knocked at the door and then demanded the men give him keys to the vehicle in the driveway. When he was told the keys were inside the truck, he didn't believe them and told Craig Heitkamp to help him access a vehicle in the family's attached garage.
The younger Heitkamp later told the court he was horrified to see Ball holding a gun to his father's head as he (Craig) was forced to walk toward the garage. After entering the garage, Ball ordered Craig Heitkamp to kneel down and commented that "maybe I should just shoot you now," Augsburger read to the court.
Ball fled the home in Craig Heitkamp's 2012 GMC Sierra pickup truck. Officers on the evening of Feb. 27 located Ball and the stolen truck in Hamilton County. Ball eventually was brought back to Auglaize County to face charges.
The judge was visibly upset when the facts of the case were revealed.
"Why did you pick these people?" he asked Ball, glancing toward the victims.
"It was the first house (I came to) without any neighbors around it," Ball replied, adding it was a random choice.
Pepple said it saddened him to send a young man to prison and is "almost as sad that an 18-year-old could do something like this."
"It was just one bad decision after another," he said of Ball's behavior.
The judge noted he was glad the victims were in the courtroom Thursday.
"I'm glad this young man didn't make a worse choice and take their lives. I wish I could take this all away ... but I can't," he said. "You don't get do-overs in this life."
Pepple in an effort to comfort the Heitkamps said "trauma is something you don't get over, but you do get through it." He asked them to disregard threats from "young and stupid 18-year-olds shooting their mouth off saying stuff they don't mean."
When given an opportunity to speak, Ball apologized to the Heitkamp family.
"I'd like to say I'm sorry for what I put their family through," he said, looking directly at the victims as he spoke.
Ball several times stated the men were "random" victims and he has no intention of ever returning to their home.