A 42-year-old man found guilty of attempting to burglarize a Flagstaff jewelry store has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Police say Porter Deron Land, who is from Phoenix, traveled to Flagstaff in order to carry out an elaborate scheme to rob Jim Anderson Jewelers in 2014. It involved multiple getaway vehicles, hotel bookings and weapons.
But his plans were thwarted when store owner Mary DeLeon, who was held at gunpoint at the time, was able to grab a gun and fire it.
During the sentencing Tuesday at Coconino Superior Court, DeLeon made an emotional plea to the judge to give Land the maximum allowable sentence. It was Land’s actions, she said, that had taken a lasting toll on her mental health and led her to close her jewelry store.
“Most of my physical wounds have healed a long time ago, but I am afraid my mental wounds will never go away,” DeLeon said. “I sometimes think I will never be able to forgive Mr. Land for what he did to me, my family and my employees.”
DeLeon said she opened Jim Anderson Jewelers in 1972 with her mother and father, working hard to make the business successful. But after being robbed at gunpoint, she “had to close the jewelry store due to her paranoia.”
“I will never forget those memories. But I am going to try hard to forget Mr. Land,” she said. “Mr. Land made me retire way too soon, because I know I would still be working there.”
Coconino Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols said she “could not ignore the aggravating factors” as she handed down the maximum sentence for each of Land’s six felony counts.
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Land has a list of prior felony convictions dating back to 1998, including a past conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Police investigators say they have also linked Land to a string of heists targeting local pharmacies in Phoenix.
But it was DeLeon’s testimony throughout the trial that appeared to play a deciding role in the judge's ruling.
“I don’t sentence people to the maximum very often,” Nichols said, speaking directly to Land. “But I can’t ignore the aggravating factors the court found and the incredible, serious emotional, financial and physical harm caused to Ms. DeLeon.”
Nichols ruled that Land is able to serve his sentences concurrently, the longest of which carried 28 years in prison.
The maximum sentence comes after a jury found Land guilty on all charges in May -- which included counts of first-degree burglary, attempted armed robbery, armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and criminal damage.
Land’s aunt, Deloris Land, was present at the sentencing along with her two brothers to support their nephew. While she did not excuse Land’s crimes, she painted a picture of his “troubled past” at the sentencing and asked Nichols to “have mercy.”
“He did not have a lot of upbringing because of the loss of his dad. It still does not make any excuse for what has happened, but all we have to do is have mercy,” she said. “We wanted to let him know that he does have a family who loves him in spite of this.”
She hoped DeLeon “could find it in her heart” to forgive her nephew, she said.
Land’s attorney, Lindsay Smith, similarly asked Nichols to consider Land’s trauma suffered throughout his childhood and adulthood as mitigating factors
“If we look at [Land’s past], is anybody surprised?,” Smith asked. “When we don’t take care of our children and the state doesn’t get involved or pay attention until something like this happens, how can we be surprised?
“This isn’t to say that he isn’t responsible ... but context is important,” she added.
Prosecutor Ammon Barker pointed to Land’s history of previous convictions and the circumstances of the robbery, including an accomplice and the usage of a deadly weapon, as cause for a lengthier sentence.
“It wasn’t like he one day woke up and decided to rob a jewelry store. He has been doing this. It has been, or had been, his occupation,” Barker said.
Land’s co-defendant, DeQuint Blunt, is awaiting a trial to determine whether he is guilty of similar charges connected to the incident. His trial is scheduled to take place next week.
Police say one of the two men, believed to have been Blunt, entered the jewelry store the day of the attempted robbery around 11:15 a.m. claiming to be interested in shopping for a wedding ring. As DeLeon led the man around the store, she got the sense that something was wrong.
Her concerns grew as the man asked her if anybody else was in the store, according to a police report. DeLeon lied and said there was another jeweler in the back as the man subsequently made his way toward a set of jewelry cases near the back of the store.
It was at this moment that the robbery appears to have taken a violent turn, as the man pointed a gun at DeLeon and demanded information about the store’s safe.
Smith acknowledged on Tuesday that it was Blunt who had pointed the gun.
After a short scuffle, evidence suggests DeLeon eventually found an opportunity to trigger a silent alarm as she accessed a gun hidden in the store. She fired a shot in the direction of the man, intentionally missing.
Startled, the gunman threw himself through a window to escape.
Land was ordered to pay a restitution of just over $400 to DeLeon for the cost of replacing the window.
Throughout the case, witnesses ran into difficulty identifying the suspects on the day of the robbery. But DeLeon was able to identify that it was Land who had come into her store the day prior and police matched Land’s DNA to evidence recovered from the scene.