Judge reduces term of leader of car theft ring

September 19, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A Howard circuit judge has taken three years off the prison sentence of an Owen Brown village man who headed a car theft ring that stole more than 20 vehicles near his east Columbia home.

Christopher James Peca, 20, formerly of the 9300 block of Afternoon Lane, originally was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to 12 theft counts in Howard Circuit Court in January 1995. On Sept. 11, Judge Diane O. Leasure reduced the sentence to five years.

In a hearing to request the reduced sentence, the defense presented Leasure with letters from Peca in which he cites a prison boot camp as having helped him.

"I can honestly say that the [boot camp] has provided me with a new direction on life," wrote Peca, who had told police he could steal a car with just a screwdriver.

The package also included letters praising Peca's performance from a boot camp supervisor and from an instructor for a state program that educates prisoners.

Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy said she opposed lowering Peca's sentence.

"I argued that based on his previous history and the seriousness of the offense that it was an appropriate sentence," Murphy said.

Peca was a member of a group known as the Low Riders. Prosecutors charged that Peca and six other members of the group stole the vehicles, mostly four-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokees and Chevrolet Blazers, from east Columbia between Dec. 25, 1993, and Jan. 3, 1994.

Some of vehicles were taken on joy rides to Lake Elkhorn in Owen Brown, where the participants would play "crash-up derby" and "bumper cars," police said.

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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