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Court reverses several theft convictions under single larceny rule

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An Orange County man who stole items from a deceased man’s home and sold them had multiple convictions overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals, including several theft convictions and failure to report a dead body.

In Sterlen Shane Keller v. State of Indiana, 59A01-1206-CR-271, Sterlen Shane Keller appealed his convictions and sentences for Class D felony auto theft, Class B felony burglary, nine counts of Class D felony theft, and Class A misdemeanor failure to report a dead body. He raised multiple issues: whether the trial court properly allowed the state to amend the charging information; whether he was denied his right to a speedy trial; whether his statements to police were properly admitted into evidence; whether the jury was properly instructed; whether there is sufficient evidence to support his convictions; whether his theft convictions violate the single larceny rule or the continuing crime doctrine; and whether he was properly sentenced.

Keller had approached 79-year-old Robert Collier on his farm about selling some of his old farm equipment to Keller for scrap. Collier initially declined Keller’s offer. A few months later, Keller’s stepfather became suspicious when he saw Keller driving a GMC truck. Police discovered the truck belonged to Collier and conducted a welfare check. Collier’s body was found on the property and had decomposed badly.

Keller sold items of Collier’s to a salvage yard on 14 occasions. These include an Oldsmobile, a farm truck, and a tractor. Police also found Collier’s possessions in Keller’s garage, including rings, blank checks, and a Social Security check made out to Collier.

The judges affirmed in part and reversed in part Keller’s convictions.

“Keller waived his right to challenge the State’s amendment of the charging information. He has not shown that his right to a speedy trial was violated, that the admission of his statements to police was improper, or that the trial court abused its discretion in instructing the jury. Pursuant to the single larceny rule, the convictions for theft of the Social Security check and for theft of the two rings must be vacated. Although there is sufficient evidence to support the auto theft, theft, and burglary convictions, there is insufficient evidence to support the failure to report a dead body conviction as charged by the State. Keller’s modified sentence of twenty-nine years does not violate the statutory limit on consecutive sentences, and he has not shown that his sentence is inappropriate,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

They remanded for further proceedings.

 

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