Courtland man sent to prison for church burglary

Published 9:31 am Friday, June 10, 2011

COURTLAND—A Courtland man will serve nine months in prison and pay more than $6,000 in restitution for burglarizing a neighbor’s home and a church in Courtland on Nov. 16.

Richard Atkins Jr. was sentenced Thursday in Southampton County Circuit Court on two counts of burglary and two counts of grand larceny for break-ins at First Baptist Church and the home.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke said Atkins lied to investigators when he was arrested and that his mother and grandfather had to tell the true story.

Cooke said a television from Atkins’ neighbor’s home was found in his car, and other items, including a computer, were found in a shed.

Cooke added that Atkins burglarized and vandalized the predominantly black church and called the crime “racially based.” Cooke said the defendant posted the picture of a young white girl on the altar of the church. Oil was spilled and paper was strewn about the church as well.

“This sort of crime was extremely offensive,” he said. “He needs to go to jail and restitution should be ordered.”

Cooke suggested Atkins be sentenced to significant jail time although state sentencing guidelines suggested probation only.

Defense attorney P.D. Crumpler III argued the items stolen were returned “in a matter of hours.” He said the defendant has had a full-time job with his grandfather’s landscaping business and had plans to work with his father in Conway, N.C.

Crumpler said Atkins had even done landscaping work for the church to help make amends and had a clean criminal record.

“No purpose would be served by incarceration,” Crumpler said.

The defense also said there was an accomplice in the crimes. Crumpler argued that Atkins gave police the description of a man who helped him plan the crimes.

Cooke called the idea of an accomplice “preposterous.”

Atkins apologized for the burglaries.

“I throw myself upon the mercy of the court,” he said.