DOBSON — A Mount Airy man known for his civil lawsuit against N.C. Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-90, was convicted in criminal court Monday.
William Neil Shelton, 46, pleaded guilty by Alford decision to felony charges of breaking and entering and larceny after breaking and entering.
An Alford plea indicates the defendant does not admit to actually having committed the crime but finds it in their best interest to plead guilty.
Shelton was accused of breaking into the Brinkley Lane, Pilot Mountain, home of Dennis and Susette Simmons on June 6, 2015.
Jason Ramey, a Rockingham County assistant district attorney imported to prosecute the case, told the court that the Simmons couple woke up June 7, 2016, to find a window had been pried open and their gun cabinet had been damaged and looted.
Security camera footage from earlier in the day showed Shelton knocking on the front door, peering through windows and leaving, Ramey said.
Later that night an individual wearing a hat appeared on the footage and also went around the back of the house and was shown replacing the screen and shutting the window that was later reported to be damaged.
Ramey said the individual wearing the hat who appeared later resembled Shelton, but the face “wasn’t completely clear.”
The stolen items included several shotguns and rifles as well as two diamond tennis bracelets.
The couple’s insurance covered the majority of the damage to the home and stolen property, and Shelton’s plea agreement required him to pay the remaining $4,746 as restitution.
Defense attorney David Erdmann told the court that his client’s decision to plead guilty involved the fact that video evidence had placed him at the scene.
“He claimed he had a valid reason to be there,” Erdmann continued, but wasn’t confident a jury could be convinced.
Presiding Judge Richard L. Doughton, who is a special Superior Court Judge appointed by the governor, accepted the plea.
He gave Shelton a suspended six- to 17- month sentence with two years of supervised probation, noting that the defendant has no felony record, “just a couple of class two misdemeanors, but nothing for felony sentencing purposes.”
Pursuant to the plea agreement, Shelton may be transferred to unsupervised probation after one year if in full compliance.
He was ordered to pay the costs of court and to pay $4,250 of the restitution immediately with the remainder to be paid on a schedule.
One of the victims, Susette Simmons, credited Ramey for the successful prosecution.
“He has stayed right on top of this,” she said. “He has done a wonderful job,” she said, also including Brent Trivette, a former detective with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, in her praise.
Shelton could not immediately be reached for comment.
In November 2015, he had sued Stevens, her law partner, Zachary Brintle, and Shelton ’s ex-wife, Kimberly Hiatt Shelton, alleging that the defendants used tactics during the Sheltons’ divorce and custody proceedings that unjustly led to Neil Shelton’s imprisonment and financial ruin.
He filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice of the suit earlier this month.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.