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Last of 4 men receives sentence

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The last of four men has been sentenced for breaking into a Trafalgar-area home multiple times before the homeowner caught and shot one of them.

Christopher Shepherd, Zachary Chittum, Bryan Wooldridge and Christopher Keller each pleaded guilty to a charge of theft after they were arrested in 2011.

Police said the men broke into a vacant home on County Road 575W three times in August 2011 and stole several large appliances. After the repeated break-ins, the homeowner set up a motion sensor at the empty house, which was near his own home.

The alarm went off the next night, so homeowner Kevin Reckley and his wife drove to the house and confronted the four men.

Reckley told police Chittum moved toward his vehicle, and he shot him in the stomach with a double-barreled shotgun. Chittum recovered. The prosecutor ruled the shooting was self-defense, and Reckley was not charged.

Since then, all four men involved in the burglary have been sentenced.

Keller, 22, of Nineveh, was sentenced in August 2012 to three years in prison, the longest term in jail among the four men.

Chittum, 21, of Morgantown, was sentenced in January 2013 to 60 days in jail and  more than two years’ probation.

The other two men received no additional jail time after pleading guilty to charges. This month, Shepherd, 22, of Morgantown, was sentenced to three years on probation. He was ordered to pay $1,000 restitution and will face a $5,000 fine if he doesn’t successfully complete probation. Wooldridge, 22, Nineveh, also served no additional jail time after being sentenced in May 2013 to just over a year in prison with credit for time served.

Police said Shepherd, Wooldridge and Keller broke into the vacant home three times before the shooting, and Chittum was with them twice, according to a police report.

The men — who were between 18 and 20 at the time — first took small items, such as car batteries, wheel rims and metal window frames to sell for scrap.

On the second and third trips, they took larger, more expensive items, including a riding lawnmower, rototiller, refrigerator, and washer and dryer set, according to police reports.

When he caught the burglars, Shepherd and Chittum were in a truck parked in the driveway, Reckley told police. He pointed the shotgun at them and told them to get out of the vehicle. When Chittum reached back toward the open door of his vehicle, Reckley shot him in the stomach.

He then fired another shot into the radiator of the truck to disable it, police reports said.

Keller drove away from the house in another vehicle, nearly hitting Reckley and his wife. As the vehicle drove past, Reckley fired at it with a handgun. Keller crashed the truck into a ditch and ran away, the reports said.

Chittum was taken to an Indianapolis hospital to have surgery to remove shotgun pellets from his abdomen.

Reckley told police he thought Chittum, who was 18 at the time, was reaching for a weapon inside the truck. Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper decided in early 2012 not to file charges in the shooting, because a property owner has a right to use force to prevent a crime and to use deadly force if they believe they are in danger of being harmed.

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