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'Mastermind' of crime spree gets 27 years

'Mastermind' of crime spree gets 27 years

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RACINE - Martell Rogers, the man convicted of nine counts from a 2006 crime spree that included locking children in an attic, smiled as the judge sentenced him to prison and kept smiling after hearing the length of his term: 27 years.

With the calm air of a student taking notes in a class, Rogers alongside his attorney jotted down the judge's sentence Monday for a series of armed robberies and home invasions.

"Rogers was the mastermind of the situation," Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tanck-Adams said, adding he was the one to decide which victims, homes and gas stations they would target.

A jury convicted Rogers, 26, of Brookfield, in January of being involved in six crimes: armed robbery, burglary while armed and two counts each of false imprisonment and forcefully abducting another's child. Two others, Rachel Ritacco and Gerald Halcsik, are respectively serving 13 and 10 years in prison for their involvement.

Rogers broke into a Washington Avenue home knowing children were there alone, having cased it beforehand, according to Tanck-Adams. The children, then 13 and 6, testified Rogers barricaded them in the attic after forcing the 13-year-old who lived there to show them where the money and valuables were kept, she said. The boy was kidnapped in his own home, she said, reading a statement from the boy's father.

Rogers previously admitted to three additional counts of burglary, armed robbery and taking and operating a vehicle without consent in June and July 2006.

"He basically was unstoppable, given the quick pace he picked up the same nature of offenses," Tanck-Adams said during the sentencing.

Defense attorney Douglas Henderson pointed to Rogers' difficult childhood, growing up without a father or a male role model, having a mother who had drug problems and spending time in foster care. He added Rogers has stayed out of trouble in jail.

"He wants to be rehabilitated," Henderson said.

A few family members and friends spoke on Rogers' behalf, saying they had seen a transformation in Rogers and asking for mercy. Soft-spoken at first, Rogers also addressed the court.

"I don't regret being here. It's grown me in a way that I haven't grown in any other situation," he said, adding he does not fear what will happen in court because it will be God who ultimately deals with him.

However, Rogers strongly denied involving the children, saying he cannot accept responsibility for something he did not do.

Racine County Circuit Court Judge Allan "Pat" Torhorst said while it sounded like Rogers' rehabilitation has already started, that cannot be a primary factor in his sentencing.

While Torhorst read off his sentence, someone abruptly left the courtroom, angrily muttering. Rogers continued smiling.

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