A man who stole cars and led police on an interstate chase was sentenced to 25 years in prison today. In all, Edward Hamilton DeHart, Jr., of Riner, was sentenced on 21 felony charges, including multiple burglaries, multiple grand larcenies, felony eluding, and possession of a firearm by a violent felon.
Police say that between March and August of 2011, DeHart stole construction tools from several Montgomery County work sites. The police were investigating those cases when they got a call about a suspicious man in Christiansburg on Aug. 8. Police say DeHart ran when he spotted them, and jumped into a company truck at J.C. Martin, Inc. The truck was later found in Roanoke.
Two days later, another truck was stolen on Simpson Road in Christiansburg, and then on Aug. 12, DeHart escaped another encounter with police. A clerk at the Radford Sunoco called police after recognizing DeHart from a wanted flyer. Police arrived and tried to stop DeHart, who fled the scene instead of complying. The stolen truck in which he fled was eventually found abandoned, and had 13 bullet holes in it. The truck also contained a shotgun with shells, and a white hat owned by DeHart.
Later the same day, DeHart stole a Toyota Avalon in Radford. That evening, Sgt. Jon Eaton of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office tried to pull the car over after it failed to stop for a stop sign. Once again, DeHart fled, this time heading onto I-81. This chase ended when DeHart crashed into a guardrail. A loaded revolver was found in the car.
DeHart initially entered a plea of "not guilty," but changed to an Alford plea last July after two days of testimony. He was found guilty by Judge Robert M.D. Turk.
At sentencing today, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Erin Little said DeHart had served time in prison three times before, and each time committed new crimes within months of his release. She argued DeHart should not be released again. Judge Turk sentenced DeHart, who is 50 years old, to 75 years in prison, to be suspended after he serves 25 years. He was also placed on 20 years' probation, and ordered to pay restitution to his victims.