Appellate court rejects 2nd burglary sentence appeal after previously ordering resentencing

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A man who previously convinced the Court of Appeals of Indiana to reduce his burglary conviction and sentence failed Wednesday in his second sentencing appeal.

Following a bench trial in 2018, the Johnson Superior Court convicted Reese Levi Keith of multiple offenses, including Level 1 felony burglary, adjudicated him as a habitual offender and sentenced him to 62 years.

Keith’s convictions related to the 2017 robbery of 90-year-old Clayton Dixon and 88-year-old Ella Dixon, who lived in Franklin. After the robbery, the elderly man’s Alzheimer’s worsened and he was put in an assisted living facility, which drained the couple’s savings and left his wife alone in the same house where the crimes occurred.

On Keith’s first appeal, the Court of Appeals in June 2019 reversed in his favor, finding the injury to Clayton’s mind did not qualify as a bodily injury.

Thus, the COA ordered the trial court to vacate the Level 1 felony burglary conviction and enter judgement of the burglary as a Level 3 felony. Also on remand, the COA ordered the trial court to attach Keith’s habitual offender enhancement to one of his felony convictions.

At resentencing, Keith received a 42-year aggregate term with the habitual offender enhancement.

Keith appealed again, arguing his sentence was inappropriate.

This time around, however, the appellate court refused to provide relief given the facts of the case and Keith’s “extensive criminal history,” which includes six felonies, five misdemeanors and seven probation violations.

“This senseless attack on an elderly couple is particularly disturbing,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote. “When these facts are placed in context with Keith’s criminal history, we find it necessary to remind appellants that our ‘appellate review and revise authority derived from Article 4 of the Indiana Constitution likewise includes the power to either reduce or increase a criminal sentence on appeal.’ McCullough v. State, 900 N.E.2d 745, 750 (Ind. 2009) (emphasis added).

“However, given our previous instructions on remand, we chose not to exercise the authority to increase Keith’s sentence,” Pyle continued. “The trial court considered all of the evidence and imposed a sentence well within the statutory range.

“Based on the record before us,” the judge concluded, “Keith has failed to meet his burden to persuade this Court that his sentence is inappropriate.”

The case is Reese Levi Keith v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-930.

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