A Kennewick man said he never meant to hurt an elderly widow when he ransacked the woman’s home and left her duct-taped to a recliner.
Eric A. Rosas, 21, choked up as he apologized for the Dec. 18 home invasion, telling Laura Dunbar, 73, that he wishes he could go back in time.
“First and foremost, I’d like to give Ms. Dunbar my sincerest apology for my actions … and the reprehensible damage that I caused her and her loved ones,” Rosas said in Benton County Superior Court. “I never meant to hurt her and cause her any damage at any time.
“I hope she can have forgiveness in her heart for what I did. ... I’m sorry.”
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Rosas pleaded guilty Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and theft of a firearm. The robbery charge included an aggravating circumstance of deliberate cruelty.
He was sentenced to six years and one month in prison.
Judge Alex Ekstrom — in rejecting the defense request for one less year — told Rosas he has “earned those months.”
Then, after learning that a couple of the firearms taken from Dunbar’s home are still missing, Ekstrom added, “That’s on you too. They show up, they hurt somebody, that’s on you as well.”
The events of that day will be with her the rest of her life and will have an impact that she will never forget.
Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell
The judge said it was to Dunbar’s credit that in spite of her anger, she showed restraint and grace in not asking for a longer sentence, despite the deliberate cruelty involved in the crime.
He said that’s what made him more comfortable in going along with the recommendation.
“When another selfish person comes into our home and takes our memories, particularly when they represent the accomplishments of those not with us any longer, it’s galling,” Ekstrom said. “It’s doubly galling when recognitions of service of that loved one are taken knowing full well it doesn’t have much value to someone else.”
“It’s taken out of meanness, and that’s what is awful,” he added.
Dunbar told police she fell asleep in her chair about 5 p.m. and later awoke to strangers trying to restrain her. They covered her mouth and grabbed her arms, telling her to keep quiet or they would kill her.
Dunbar’s wrists were taped together, her head and chest were taped to the chair, and her head was covered with a pillowcase.
She got a quick glimpse of two suspects, which later helped identify them based on their clothing.
Her three assailants ran through the South Hawthorne Street home, knocking things over and opening drawers. They took her property and left the house with her still tied to the chair, knowing that she lived alone and might not be able to escape.
Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell said it was through sheer willpower that Dunbar chewed through the tape over her mouth and hands and freed herself so she could call for help.
However, Dunbar suffered a heart attack during the incident, Howell said. She then discovered the robbers took jewelry, firearms, a gun safe and her late husband’s medals, ribbons and awards for both his military service and later volunteer work.
“The events of that day will be with her the rest of her life and will have an impact that she will never forget,” he said.
Howell added that the robbers’ actions that day aren’t excusable by any age, but Rosas as the only adult should have spoken up and said it wasn’t right.
Eric, you are the scum of the earth. You have stolen the very life out of me.
Laura Dunbar, in a letter to the court
Ezekiel I. Salazar, 16, is serving a 2 1/2 -year sentence for tipping off his friends to target that home and serving as the lookout. He used to do chores and yardwork for Dunbar, and knew she owned guns.
Luis Palomo Olmedo, 14, will be locked up in a juvenile facility until he is 18 for his role in the home invasion.
His younger brother, Jefferson Palomo Olmedo, now 13, recently pleaded guilty in Juvenile Court to burglary, kidnapping and gun theft. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Friday and is looking at 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years in a juvenile facility.
Dunbar chastised Rosas in court for participating with juveniles in such a violent crime, and for hurting not only her but his own family.
“Eric, you are the scum of the earth. You have stolen the very life out of me,” Dunbar separately wrote in a letter to the court. “My things that meant a lot to me, they were the memories of 50 years.”
“You will never have a good life unless you change your ways,” she added. “No home or family, because no decent woman will have you. Only by the grace of God am I able to go on.”
After the hearing, Dunbar and Rosas’ mother and brother all hugged and cried together.
Dunbar told them: “Please, please, please don’t give up on that boy. Don’t give up on that boy. Pray for him.”
Rosas’ mother said, “I’m so sorry,” before the three walked out of the courtroom together.