No rehab for this pistol whipper

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COEUR d’ALENE — A 33-year-old Hayden man who pistol whipped a victim for $50 and was convicted by a jury of robbery, burglary, theft and drug possession will serve at least 10 years behind bars.

Matthew M. Fox, whose prior criminal history was negligible, told the court Thursday in Coeur d’Alene that his crime spree of earlier this year was the result of a methamphetamine relapse.

If given a chance, Fox pleaded, he would prove that he could be a productive member of society.

First District Judge Scott Wayman, however, said the violence Fox exhibited when he robbed two victims, including an incident in which he used a loaded handgun to knock a man unconscious, could not be rectified through a drug rehabilitation program.

Wayman sentenced Fox to a series of 10-year fixed prison terms with an additional 10-year indeterminate for two counts of robbery and aggravated assault. In addition, Wayman sentenced Fox to a minimum of 10 years fixed and four years indeterminate for two counts of burglary, grand theft and having forged checks. The sentences would run concurrently, the judge ruled, meaning if Fox has been a model inmate he could be eligible for parole after 10 years.

Victims at the sentencing hearing told the court that Fox appeared to be a stand-up, Christian man when he joined their family. As a wedding gift, he and his bride-to-be received a house, but once Fox lost his job as a salesman, he started staying out late, carrying a gun and he became belligerent when confronted about the “sketchy” people he called his friends.

“I accused him of leading a double life,” said 85-year-old Imogene Bachmeier, whom Fox had referred to as “grandma.” “He became belligerent. He showed me his gun and yelled at me to stay out of his life.”

Charges from gas stations and smoke shops showed up on her credit card account and she noticed cards had been removed from her purse. She accused Fox of taking cars without permission and running them low on gasoline, and of stealing the family’s firearms.

The family finally paid Fox $20,000 to get his name off the home’s title, she said. The planned wedding did not transpire.

During the same period, Fox was charged with armed robbery.

“It could have resulted in death,” deputy prosecutor Art Verharen said. “He struck (the victim) in the face with a heavy, loaded 45-caliber semiautomatic, knocking him to the ground and rendering him unconscious.”

When the victim, who suffered a broken nose, regained consciousness, he was robbed of $50.

“He threatened to kill him,” Verharen said. “You really have what amounts to a very serious, very violent crime.”

Prosecutors asked the court for a 20-year sentence.

Because the crimes were a result of a drug relapse, deputy public defender Jeanne Howe said the court should place her client in a prison rider program, which stresses rehabilitation, lasts no more than a year and is a pathway to probation. If that wasn’t possible, Howell said, the court should impose minimal prison time.

Wayman’s sentence took the middle ground.

“You don’t have a significant prior criminal history,” Wayman told Fox. “You weren’t an angel, but there’s nothing (behind you) like what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

Fox had given in to drug use and the violent behavior associated with it, Wayman said.

“That’s not something you can fix overnight,” he said.

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