WARSAW — A Warsaw man was sentenced to seven years in jail with two of those years suspended as a result of an incident where a couple he’d known for two decades reported coming home and catching him in the act of burglarizing their home.
Michael Lee Eppenbaugh, 36, 5049 Reo Ave., South Bend, was charged with burglary, a level 3 felony; theft, a level 6 felony; possession of a narcotic drug, a level 6 felony and failure to appear, a level 6 felony. Eppenbaugh resided in Warsaw when the crimes were committed.
Eppenbaugh pleaded guilty in February to the burglary and failure to appear charges. As part of a plea agreement, the theft charge and drug charge were dismissed.
According to police, a man and woman came home on Nov. 2, 2015, to find a blue Ford Mustang parked at a side door to their residence. The man blocked the car in with his pickup truck and proceeded to the back door of the residence, which had been forced open. The woman went to the driver’s side door of the mustang.
The man entered the residence and confronted a man he identified as Eppenbaugh. The couple told police they had known Eppenbaugh for 20 years. The man said Eppenbaugh turned and ran out the front door of the residence toward his car, where the woman was waiting.
The woman said Eppenbaugh tried to remove an IV from her arm that connects to her heart, removing the IV would have caused the woman to bleed to death. He then attempted to throw her to the ground, which caused her injury before getting behind the wheel of the Mustang and ramming the pickup truck several times in order to escape, according to the man and woman.
The male victim began pursuing Eppenbaugh in his pickup truck but lost sight of the now-convicted burglar.
Before he fled the scene, the female victim reported spotting numerous items from the couple’s home inside the Mustang.
The couple reported two safes stolen from the residence along with a coin collection valued at $3,000, $3,000 worth of savings bonds, a gold and diamond ring and a large assortment of drugs such as Morphine, Adderall, Hydrocodone and Valium. The couple also reported a wallet stolen that contained a Social Security card and Medicare card.
According to Prosecutor Dan Hampton, the theft has resulted in some identity theft issues for the couple. He said the couple is asking for Eppenbaugh’s help in locating some of the things stolen from their home.
When asked to speak to any of these issues or to address the court, Eppenbaugh sat stone-faced before nearly inaudibly saying “I don’t have anything (to say).”
Circuit Court Judge Mike Reed told Eppenbaugh he would, although reluctantly, accept the proposed sentence set forth in a plea agreement made between the defendant’s defense and prosecutors.
“Your lawyer said you have accepted responsibility for your actions,” Reed said. “You failed to appear twice. I have a hard time believe that is accepting responsibility. What you did was serious. They [victims] suffered emotional losses that are unquantifiable. Now they have identity issues because of your actions.”
For the burglary charge, Reed sentenced Eppenbaugh to six years with the Indiana Department of Corrections and added a year sentence for failing to appear. He suspended two years and ordered those years be spent on probation. He also gave Eppenbaugh 290 days of jail time credit.