CEDAR CITY – Nine months after the early morning robbery of a Cedar City Texaco, the St. George man convicted of holding a cashier at knife point and demanding money from the register was sentenced Tuesday in a 5th District courtroom to serve five years to life in the Utah State Prison.
Louis Eleuterio McNeal-Sandoval, 33, who at first claimed to be incompetent to stand trial, was found to be mentally ill, according to a findings of fact document entered by Chief Deputy Iron County Attorney Troy A. Little, but it was also found that “the Defendant has a clear comprehension and appreciation of the charges and allegations against him.”
The findings were based on three separate competency interviews that were conducted by professional psychologists in April and June. Two of the competency reports claimed that McNeal-Sandoval was in a position to understand the charges against him and the possible repercussions.
In light of the competency findings, McNeal-Sandoval, who was preparing to go to trial, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony aggravated robbery.
At that time, it was requested that a presentence investigation be conducted by Iron County Adult Probation and Parole to determine a recommendation on behalf of the state to offer to the judge on sentencing day.
Given McNeal-Sandoval’s lengthy criminal history and the nature of the crime, his attorney, James M. Park, said he and his client had no intentions of disputing the recommendation from AP&P but said they would stipulate that there should be no fines, considering the long-term sentence McNeal-Sandoval is facing.
Park did ask the state to consider including time served for the number of days McNeal-Sandoval spent in the Iron County Jail before he was sentenced.
“A lot of the time he spent was not all of his fault,” Park said, “because of the three different competency evals we had to have.”
McNeal-Sandoval apologized before the judge read his sentence.
“I would just like to apologize for my behavior and for the crime I did and to the victims,” he said.
After thanking him for the apology, presiding Judge Keith C. Barnes reminded McNeal-Sandoval that the crime he was being sentenced for was no small crime, and the sentence would reflect the court’s knowledge of the lengthy criminal history that preceded the December robbery.
“We have heard from your attorney and Mr. Little,” Barnes said. “Unfortunately for this court you do have a long, lengthy criminal history and this is a serious offense that you’ve pled guilty to and that has not left, really, a lot of options for this court.”
In accordance with the presentence investigation, Barnes sentenced McNeal-Sandoval to serve time in the Utah State Prison for a period of five years to life with $43 in court fees to pay in concurrence.
The state asked that the judge keep the possibility of restitution open for future determination of fees by the Utah State Board of Pardons. The judge approved and included the request in McNeal-Sandoval’s sentencing.
It is a huge relief to finally have the ordeal over with, former Texaco Cashier Lindsy Hold, who was working in the gas station when the robbery took place, said. The events have been stressful from the very beginning, she said, and she is looking forward to beginning the healing process.
Hold said one thing that bothered her was the fines McNeal-Sandoval was originally supposed to pay for the crime were waived by the judge.
Fines are often waived at the judge’s discretion when a penalty involves a long-term prison sentence, because inmates typically have no way to pay them, Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett said.
McNeal-Sandoval was not the only one charged in the robbery; both Benjamin Michael Wulfenstein, 39, of Elko, Nevada, and St. George resident Victoria Elizabeth Fanton, 25, were sentenced previously. (See ed. note)
On July 25, Wulfenstein pleaded guilty to second-degree felony robbery, according to court documents, and was sentenced on Aug. 25 by Barnes to serve one to 15 years in prison, but he was given credit for time served.
Wulfenstein was granted a stay on his sentence and placed on zero-tolerance probation terms that included $19,033 in fines with $17,990 of them suspended, court documents stated, which would require him to pay $1,043 plus interest and an additional $742 in restitution and attorney fees.
Fanton also pleaded guilty to second-degree felony robbery and was sentenced on March 24 to serve one to 15 years in prison. She was given “good time” for her behavior since being incarcerated in the Iron County Jail, which shortened her minimum one-year term to only 270 days.
Fanton’s sentence began when she was first arrested on Dec. 29, 2014. She remained incarcerated until her sentencing and thereafter until her term was completed.
Fanton’s fines amounted to $1,533 after $8,500 of the $10,033 fine was suspended, according to court documents. She was also ordered to pay $742 in restitution and lawyer fees.
Both Fanton and Wulfenstein, however, have since violated their probation terms and been re-incarcerated since their sentences were issued.
As of Sept. 10, warrants for the arrests of both Wulfenstein and Fanton were issued by Barnes following an “order to show cause” for failure to comply with the terms of probation.
Fanton is currently in custody at the Iron County Jail, having violated her probation through nonpayment of fines, according to court documents. Wulfenstein is still at large. Details regarding his probation violation are not available as this report is published.
Ed. note: Victoria Fanton’s age corrected.
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