KENNEWICK - A Pasco man will spend 12 years in prison for kicking in the front door of a Kennewick apartment, threatening to hit the sleeping resident with a pipe, then taking some household goods and a minivan.
Michael Joseph Rice, 33, was sentenced Thursday in Benton County Superior Court, three weeks after a jury found him guilty of first-degree robbery, theft of a motor vehicle and first-degree burglary.
He received an exceptional sentence above the standard range on the burglary because two victims were present in the home at the time, which the jury found as an aggravating factor. He also was given two back-to-back two-year mandatory terms for using a deadly weapon in the crime.
Rice's co-defendant, Nikolas Francis Glenn Campbell, also was convicted by jurors in the Feb. 16 joint trial. The 25-year-old Pasco man is to be sentenced March 31.
Never miss a local story.
According to police and court documents, Rice and Campbell were visiting friends at a West 14th Avenue apartment overnight April 6 this past year when two of them fell asleep. At about 4 a.m., the two men went to a neighboring apartment and kicked in the door.
They knew the occupant to be the aunt of a female acquaintance.
Debra Vargas was sleeping in her bedroom and awoke to find a man, later identified as Rice, standing over her bed holding an 18-inch pipe. He asked for her purse and threatened to hit her if she refused to answer. She said it was on the floor.
Vargas then tried to grab the pipe and wrestle it away from Rice, but at that point Campbell came into the room and brandished a gun, documents said.
Campbell told her to cover her head with a pillow and not look at them, then reportedly placed the barrel of the gun to her head and kept it there while Rice searched the apartment.
Vargas told Kennewick police she heard one of the men say, "Get it started," and assumed they were talking about her vehicle. After Campbell left her bedside, she stayed there for about 10 minutes to make sure they were gone, court documents said.
Once out of bed, she discovered her attackers had taken two computers, her cell phone, some items from her purse and $603 in cash, and her 1996 Dodge van, documents said. She also found her home phone lines had been cut.
Vargas' adult son also was home at the time but did not wake up because he reportedly is hard of hearing.
Rice and Campbell then returned to the apartment of their friends, pointed a gun at a 19-year-old woman who was sleeping and forced her into the van, court documents said. They drove to Portland, where the van was found two weeks later. Meanwhile, the woman who was stranded in Portland found her own way back to the Tri-Cities.
Prosecutors said they will recommend a 26-year sentence for Campbell, which includes two years for a deadly weapon enhancement.Campbell has 10 prior felony convictions, including multiple cases of forgery, possession of stolen property and taking a vehicle without permission.
Rice's criminal history includes convictions for residential burglary and bail jumping. He filed a notice Thursday that he intends to appeal his conviction in the home-invasion robbery case.