Teen to Serve 1 to 10 years in Prison for Robbery Attempt
The Wayne Circuit Court judge strayed from sentencing guidelines due to the circumstances of the robbery, the victim's statement and the 18-year-old's level of community support.
The 18-year-old Detroit man who admitted to trying to rob a nun outside St. Clare of Montefalco Church in February apologized for the crime Thursday in Wayne Circuit Court.
Raylon Vandie Wright told Judge Bruce Morrow the robbery attempt was dumb and that he plans to turn his life around as his mother is trying to do now. In a letter written to Morrow by the victim, Sister Jacquline A. Wetherholt, she described Wright as "salvageable"—a description Morrow considered, imposing a 1- to 10-year prison sentence Thursday.
Morrow talked with Wright at length about how his actions impacted not only his own life but also the lives of the nun and those who attend St. Clare of Montefalco, noting how a person's home and place of worship are the two places they typically feel the safest but Wright likely destroyed that feeling for parishioners.
Wright has no criminal history and has gained considerable community support since his arrest in March. Morrow noted the letters he received about Wright from another area church whose members reached out to him as well as from his family.
Wright's attorney Stephen Remski asked the judge to consider his circumstances at the time of the crime. While Wright has become known as "the nun robber" his actions during the crime show he isn't a seasoned criminal, noting how he placed the nun in a bathroom to think about what to do next after she said she didn't have money. Wright did not know he was approaching a church or a nun, Remski said.
His home life was also less than ideal. His mother, Dinah Wright, is undergoing drug rehabilitation, which she entered following his arrest. She's also been baptized through the same area church that has reached out to the teen.
Prosecutor Scott Ehlfeldt told Morrow before he imposed the sentence that he has "some hope" in this case as compared with most. Ehlfeldt said this is one of the only cases he's ever handled in which the defendant provided details that aligned with the victim's version of the crime during his guilty plea—something that rarely happens. Most defendants, Ehlfeldt said, try to minimize their role in a crime even though they are entering a guilty plea.
Morrow also questioned Wright about what he plans to do to turn his life around, he said he wants to finish school and to not commit any more crimes. Morrow emphasized the importance of taking action to be good rather than simply not doing bad.
The 1- to 10-year prison sentence was a deviation from the sentencing guidelines, which called for a minimum sentence of of 21 months. Morrow said he felt the deviation was appropriate in this case and urged Wright to finish his education while in prison.
Courtroom officials allowed Wright to speak with his mother and sister briefly following the sentencing hearing. Dinah Wright declined comment afterward, but previously told Patch her son committed the crime because he was hungry. She said she had been struggling financially and did not have food in the house.
A parishioner from the area church that is trying to help Wright and his mother was present during the sentencing but declined comment afterward.
His attorney said Wright could potentially get out of prison in a year as he will be allowed to appeal to the parole board. The board will likely consider the violent nature of the crime as well as his behavior while incarcerated, Remski said.
Remski had pursued the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act on behalf of Wright. The act allows offenders from 17 to 20 to serve out their sentence in a crime but upon successful completion from prison, parole or probation without having a criminal record.
It was not a part of Wright's plea, however. He entered a straight guilty plea to assault with intent to rob while armed in May. Wright was given credit for 97 days in jail.