AZTEC — A pair of Flora Vista twins have been sentenced to more than 20 combined years in prison for larceny convictions stemming from the 2010 burglary of a commercial building.
Shane Upchurch, 35, was sentenced Monday to 13 years in prison for a second-degree felony for larceny of more than $20,000. The sentence was enhanced because of prior felony convictions.
District Judge William Birdsall suspended four years from the sentence, which means Shane Upchurch can serve nine years in prison, followed by four years of probation.
In May, Aaron Upchurch, 35, was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in the same crime. He is currently serving his sentence at the Lea County Corrections Facility.
"It was a significant sentence that was given because of their histories and the amount of property that was stolen," said Chief Deputy San Juan County District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.
During a three-day span in October 2010, the Upchurch brothers broke into a commercial structure at 17429 U.S. Highway 550, which is near the state line, and stole what prosecutors said was more than $30,000 of tools, welding material, silver, gems and other valuables.
Jake Dalla, of Durango, Colo., owned the building and kept gemstones there, according to court documents. Two men rented space in the building and had thousands of dollars of tools stolen.
In the days after the burglary, San Juan County Sheriff's Office investigators searched the brothers' home in Flora Vista and found thousands of dollars of the missing property, according to court documents.
Theresa Gomez, Shane Upchurch's attorney, called the prison sentence handed down on Monday "fair." Gomez said that because of felony enhancement laws and the number of felonies her client was facing, he could have faced more than 40 years in prison, if he had received the maximum sentence and felony enhancements for all his convictions.
Gomez said her client became addicted to pain killers after a car crash several years ago, and his addiction turned him toward a life of crime.
"One thing led to another, and he started using other drugs," she said.
The Upchurches are part of the sheriff's office repeat offender program. The program emphasizes the prosecution of local residents who have been arrested three or more times. Volunteers are working to update the sheriff's office website with criminal information and jail photos of the people who are part of the program.
"The program puts (the repeat offenders) in the limelight and lets people, including judges and prosecutors, know that this isn't a run-of-the-mill case," said San Juan County Sheriff's Office Detective Lt. Cory Tanner. "These people are the small percentage of citizens who we have to spend the majority of our time on."
The Upchurches don't have a violent criminal history, Tanner said.
"They support themselves by stealing from the working citizens of the county," he said.
Shane Upchurch had prior convictions for larceny, possession of burglary tools and bringing contraband into jail, according to a state court website.
Also on Monday, he was convicted and sentenced for two pending fourth-degree felonies as part of a plea agreement. Those convictions were for larceny and tampering with evidence, and he will serve the sentences for those crimes concurrently with his nine-year sentence for second-degree felony larceny.
Aaron Upchurch had prior felony convictions for possession of controlled substances, tampering with evidence and larceny.
Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.