Pasco man admits to home break-ins to get drug money

A 22-year-old Pasco man arrested in March after a standoff with Pasco police and the SWAT team admitted Tuesday to breaking into four homes earlier this year to get money for drugs.

Josue Enrique Contreras was on a good path in life, graduating from high school and attending Columbia Basin College before he turned to drugs to cope with the death of his sister in 2007, said defense attorney Jim Egan.

A quest for money for drugs led him to break into his neighbors' homes, stealing TV, VCRs and other items that he could sell, Egan said.

Contreras pleaded guilty Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to four counts of residential burglary and one count of possession of a firearm.

Another residential burglary charge, filed in July after he posted bond on $50,000 bail on the original charges, was dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Contreras told Judge Craig Matheson that he hasn't liked himself for the past few years and he was sorry for what he's done.

"Now that I have a 5-month-old daughter, I would like to better myself so I can offer her the life that she deserves," Contreras said. "I apologize to the community as well for every wrong that I've done."

Contreras was arrested March 20 after Pasco police caught him breaking into a home at 323 N. Second Ave. Contreras was confronted by officers outside the home, but took off running to his nearby house.

Officers got a warrant to search Contreras' Bonneville Street home, but when they entered, he stepped out of another room with a .22-caliber rifle pointed at his head.

Officers quickly backed out of the home and called the Tri-City Regional SWAT team to the scene.

Contreras eventually agreed to surrender.

He then was charged with twice breaking into a home at 201 N. Second Ave., one at 413 N. Third Ave., and the Second Avenue house.

He was released from jail May 7, and two months later was arrested again after allegedly stealing a 19-inch TV from a home at 315 W. Bonneville St. That case was dismissed.

Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn recommended a middle-range sentence of four years and two months in prison, but Egan said a bottom range sentence of three years and seven months was more appropriate.

"Your honor, Mr. Contreras got involved in these burglaries because he has a drug habit," Egan said. "He has a drug history of crack, cocaine, crystal meth, marijuana, hydros, oxycontin ..."

Before he started drugs, Contreras had a bright future, attending college, working with youths and working at the restaurant.

His sister died March 11, 2007, and Egan said Contreras got into drugs to deal with her death.

"That was such a tumultuous situation for Mr. Contreras," Egan said.

Egan said he was trying to get a special sentencing option so his client could get treatment and said he was concerned that an extended time in prison would make it difficult for Contreras to concentrate on rehabilitation.

"The problem Mr. Contreras has is all connected to drugs and if he doesn't get this treatment, he's going to reoffend," Egan said.

Contreras' parents were in court Tuesday and Egan said they have been supportive of him and will continue to support him as he tries to get clean.

Judge Matheson supported the defense recommendation for a short prison sentence, but told Contreras he should take advantage of treatment, if it's available, while he's locked up.

"If not, you shouldn't spend one day out of prison without getting in treatment," Matheson said. "I'm sorry you lost your sister, but that doesn't justify throwing away your life. And it hurts your parents even more, if you think about it. They lost their daughter and then they're losing you to drugs."