ST. GEORGE – A LaVerkin man was sentenced to serve up to 30 years in prison Monday for the attempted kidnapping of a 15-year-old girl at gunpoint.
Earl Brandon Chappell, 41, stood by attorney Edward Flint in 5th District Court as Judge Eric Ludlow sentenced Chappell to serve two consecutive two-to-15-year prison terms for aggravated attempted kidnapping and aggravated attempted robbery, both second-degree felonies.
An additional year was tagged onto the minimum sentence due a firearm being used in a crime, making for an overall three-to-30-year prison term.
Chappell was also charged with a third-degree felony for aggravated assault. That carries a zero-to-five-year term that will be served concurrently with the other terms.
The charges stem from the March 4, 2015, incident in which Chappell pulled a gun on a 15-year-old Hurricane High School student as she walked to school that morning.
Prior to that incident Chappell was in a nearby convenience store that the prosecution argued he intended to rob, yet for whatever reason did not go through with it.
As the aggravated assault charge contains elements already covered by the other two charges, Flint said, it was a non sequitur.
He suggested the Merger Doctrine be used in relation to the charge. In criminal law, if a defendant commits a single act that simultaneously fulfills the definition of two separate offenses, merger will occur. This means that the lesser of the two offenses will drop out, and the defendant will only be charged with the greater offense. This prevents double jeopardy problems from arising.
However, Flint wasn’t asking the court to vacate the charge at this point, but rather wanted the issue on record so it could be reviewed by parole officials later on.
Chappell was originally facing a first-degree felony charge for the incident which could have led to a life-sentence if found guilty by a jury. Instead, he pleaded guilty to amended charges June 1, the morning a multi-day jury trial was set to begin.
Chappell has never given a reason for potentially committing an armed robbery and then a kidnapping, Deputy Washington County Attorney Ryan Shaum said.
“We don’t know,” Shaum said of Chappell’s motive in June. “He hasn’t given us a statement of what his motive was.”
According to court records, Chappell told authorities he had blacked out after getting drunk and didn’t recall the events surrounding the incident.
He told police he remembered getting off work and going to a friend’s home to drink whiskey and eventually waking up in his own bed shortly before being arrested, Hurricane Police Officer Steve Johnson said during a preliminary hearing last year.
“He doesn’t recall what he did,” Johnson said.
In addition to getting plastered, Flint said, Chappell had also taken a large dosage of a prescribed pain killer along with narcotics prior to the incident, which may have added to the alleged blackout.
“His story is the same now as it’s always been,” Flint said.
Chappell allegedly wasn’t cognizant of what was going on until he heard a girl screaming at him and he had a gun pointed at her, Flint said. After the girl ran off, Chappell went back home until police showed up at his door.
During the June 2105 preliminary hearing, the teen recounted how she felt someone was following her. When she turned around, she said a man – later identified as Chappell – who pointed a gun at her and told her to get in a car parked alongside the road. The girl said she began to look around for people to scream at and saw some people across the street.
Once she started screaming, she said Chappell put his gun down between his leg and the car. He then told her to “go ahead and run.”
The teen ran to the school and reported the incident to school officials and the resource officer. The investigation led the resource officer to the convenience station nearby where he was able to get surveillance footage of a man matching the description the teen gave.
The man’s presence in the store was also verified by the store clerk who told police she watched the man due to his acting strange in the store, and was worried she was about to get robbed.
Chappell was tracked down 11 hours after the incident took place. During that time, several area schools were put on lock-out.
In the wake of the incident, the teen’s mother, who was invited to read a statement before the court, said her daughter has had nightmares and hasn’t been able to sleep. She’s afraid of people walking behind her and has become secluded. She’s also become scared of going to school.
“No 15-year-old girl should ever have to go through that,” the teen’s mother said.
She told Judge Ludlow that her family sees Chappell as a danger to the community who is undeserving of mercy for what he did.
While reading the letter the teen’s mother mentioned Chappell was charged with a felony related to the sexual abuse of a child in 2001. Despite a jury subsequently acquitting Chappell, the woman said she and her family believe Chappell would have sexually assaulted her daughter if she had gotten into the car.
Instead, the teen ran and showed she was very brave and smart-thinking, her mother said. As for Chappell, the family believes he knew exactly what he was doing.
“We can spend all day thinking of the ‘what ifs’ (from that day),” Shaum said. “Fortunately we don’t have to.”
Chappell apologized for his actions and told the court he could turn himself around for the better if given the chance, and asked the judge for possible probation.
Ludlow told Chappell probation was out of the question. There are crimes for which prison is the consequence, and Chappell had committed one of those crimes, the judge said.
Not wanting his own word to be seen as discounting the words of the victim’s family put forth in the letter read in court, Flint said it concerned him there was no mention of the teen receiving counseling. While the girl has met with school counselors, her mother said as she spoke to the judge, Flint recommended the family take advantage of special state funds that will pay for the girl’s counseling.
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