After burglary sentencing, co-defendants change plea

Contributed photosAfter Daniel Faustino Arce was found guilty of robbery and burglary in Morrow County and sentenced to 13 years in prison, co-defedants Desirea Devin of Heppner and Vera Rose Smith of Warm Springs reached plea deals in the case.

After being found guilty by a Morrow County jury and handed a prison sentence of almost 13 years, Daniel Faustino Arce asked to speak to his two co-defendants.

District Attorney Justin Nelson said when they were done talking, Desirea Devin of Heppner and Vera Rose Smith of Warm Springs decided to take plea deals instead of going to trial.

Nelson wasn’t privy to the conversation after the Feb. 13 sentencing, but said Arce cared about Devin and considered Smith a friend, so perhaps he did not want them to suffer his fate.

Still, all three are prison bound.

The Morrow County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police arrested Arce, 29, of Portland, and Devin, 23, of Heppner, after a crime spree Dec. 17 in southern Morrow County that involved burglary, armed robbery and firing a gun at victim Roger Britt.

The couple also stole a vehicle and tried to ditch it on TREO Ranches, private property outside Heppner that offers pheasant and chukar hunting. Arce and Devin tried to set fire to the vehicle, according to court documents, and the commotion drew the attention of a crew of pheasant hunters who soon detained them at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived.

Nelson said Smith was involved in the beginning of the crimes, then broke off. Pendleton police caught her on Dec. 19.

The state charged Arce with 14 counts, but at trial merged three counts under first-degree robbery. Circuit Judge Dan Hill also dismissed three other counts.

First-degree robbery carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of seven years, six months under Oregon’s Measure 11. Most defendants up against a Measure 11 charge, Nelson said, waive the right to trial within 60 days so the defense team has time to conduct its investigation. Not so with Arce.

Circuit court records show the jury delivered unanimous guilty verdicts on eight counts against Arce and split 10-2 on the first-degree robbery.

Nelson also said Arce wanted his sentencing right then. Again, most people ask the court to delay sentencing. Nelson said that helps the defense and prosecutors make sentencing recommendations to the court. Nelson said Arce’s move had attorneys scurrying to make sure the sentence was accurate because the unlawful use of a weapon charge had to run concurrent with the robbery while the other charges were consecutive.

The prison sentence added up to 12 years and eight months.

After sentencing, Nelson said, the case took another odd turn when Arce asked to talk to Devin and Smith. Devin faced charges similar to Arce’s, while Smith faced first- and second-degree burglary, vehicle theft and first-degree theft.

Devin then pleaded no contest to second-degree robbery, first- and second-degree burglary and vehicle theft in exchange for a sentence of more than four years, according to court records. Nelson said drug addiction played a significant role in her life, and now she can get treatment.

Smith pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and first-degree theft and took a prison term of 19 months. Nelson said she and Devin can qualify for time off for good behavior and for alternative incarceration, such as house arrest, if they meet certain criteria.

Arce cannot qualify for those incentives for the robbery, but he can try to shave time from the rest of his sentence.

The trio remain in the Umatilla County Jail, Pendleton. Nelson said they will transfer together to Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Wilsonville, the state’s intake center for new prisoners.

Nelson said at the end, he heard one utter: “We came in together, we should go out together.”

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