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Robbery suspect convicted, sentenced

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By Alice Du Pont

A Gadsden County jury found Julius Hearns, 30, guilty of various counts of burglary and one count of attempted felony murder in the January 2011 burglary case of the Smith family off Flat Creek Road. Hearns’ accomplice, 19-year-old Shon Thomas Jr,. was found guilty on a lesser crime of burglary of a dwelling.

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The homeowners. Mr. and Mrs. Russell Smith, had left their home to run errands on the day of the burglary. Russell Smith returned home in what turned out to be the middle of a burglary. When he entered his home, he found several rifles lying on the kitchen floor in a line, one bedroom ransacked and papers in a desk draw strewn over the floor.

In the woods near the home, jewelry belong to the homeowners was found as well as other items that appeared to be hidden in the woods to be retrieved later.

In Smith’s attempt to put a halt to the burglary, Hearns fired shots and Smith fired back. As deputies arrived on the scene, the two men fled the area only to crash their older model vehicle into the side of a nearby bridge. Both were treated and released.

Before sentencing was announced, Russell Smith spoke to Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjorstrom.

“It is not our choice to be here today. That choice was made when they broke into our home. One of them shot at me three times in an attempt to kill me. Yet, they have the nerve to come here and plead not guilty. They are not victims of society; society is a victim of them. If Mr. Hearns is released too soon, he will either kill someone or cause someone to be killed,” Smith told the judge.

Dorothy Jones, Hearns’ mother, apologized to the Smiths for the role her son may have played in their problems.

“There is nothing I can say here today that will change anything. The jury has made their decision. All I can say to Julius is that this is not the end of his life, and the story will continue,” Jones said.

Hearns was sentenced Dec. 11 to the following:

* Life in prison for attempted felony murder with a 20-year minimum mandatory.

* Life in prison for burglary of a dwelling armed with a firearm with a 25-year minimum mandatory.

* 15 years on three counts of felony fleeing and eluding law enforcement.
* Five years for third-degree fleeing and eluding
* Five years for grand theft of firearms.

Hearns’ attorney had 30 days to file a motion to appeal, but opted to file that motion immediately after the sentence was handed down.

Thomas will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 8.