10/21/05 — Man guilty of robbing 6 women

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Man guilty of robbing 6 women

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 21, 2005 1:51 PM

A Mount Olive man who brandished a butcher knife to rob three elderly women and overpowered three others in robberies earlier this year was convicted Thursday of nine serious crimes.

James Lenair Albrittain, 30, of Oliver Street was sentenced today by Judge Henry V. Barnette Jr. of Raleigh in Wayne County Superior Court from 264 to 360 months in prison.

Albrittain rejected a plea bargain in which he would have been sentenced to about 10 years in prison for three armed robberies. He reportedly said he could not spend that long in prison. Now he is facing at least six years on each robbery charge and more time on the other six charges.

Albrittain netted less than $1,000 in cash and property from the robberies, officials said.

A jury of seven women and five men needed only 53 minutes to convict Albrittain of three felony counts of armed robbery, two felony counts of common-law robbery, or robbery without a weapon, and one felony count each of larceny from the person, first-degree burglary, breaking and entering and second-degree kidnapping.

"I knew it would not take them long," said the alternate juror after the verdict was announced.

The six victims -- five of whom were in their late 70s or 80s -- testified against Albrittain during the week-long trial.

"Those ladies were champs," Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth said.

The prosecutor added that none of them wanted to testify. One who was less than 5-feet "stood tall," she said.

A seventh victim could not testify, because she had had surgery and reportedly was in critical condition at a hospital.

Two other elderly women also testified that they had been robbed in neighboring counties. An 83-year-old woman identified Albrittain as the man who snatched her pocketbook Feb. 3 in Warsaw. A 75-year-old woman said someone grabbed her pocketbook Jan. 10 in Princeton. She could not identify the suspect.

Albrittain did not testify.

Mrs. Kroboth offered the age of the victims as an aggravating circumstance -- a factor that would lengthen Albrittain's sentence.

Because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Albrittain could have requested another trial before the same jury on the matter. After conferring with John Gomulka, his court-appointed lawyer, Albrittain agreed to the circumstance.

Most of the victims had been shopping and were coming home.

Albrittain's crime wave started Feb. 1, when he displayed a butcher knife to rob a woman in Mount Olive of her pocketbook. The next day, he broke into a woman's home in the 600 block of Gloucester Street in Goldsboro and grabbed her purse. Then on Feb. 3, he used the knife to get a woman's purse in the 2700 block of Langston Drive in Goldsboro. The next day he brandished the knife and snatched a woman's pocketbook in the 1500 block of South John Street in Goldsboro. The same day snatched an 87-year-old woman's purse at the Fremont Library. His last robbery occurred Feb. 16 in Rosewood, where he broke into a woman's home, restrained her and stole her pocketbook.

Albrittain was spotted Feb. 17 on the east side of Goldsboro, but he jumped in a vehicle and fled. He was captured after a cross-town chase in the 1100 block of West Grantham Street.

In the car, police found a 52-year-old bank receipt from one victim with her maiden name and another's bank debit card. When Albrittain's home was searched, police recovered a third victim's cell phone.

Goldsboro police Investi-gator Mike Horstmann, Wayne County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Rick Farfour, Mount Olive police Maj. Ralph Schroeder and Fremont Police Chief Ben Reid were the lead investigators. The State Bureau of Investigation assisted.

"This guy was going around and terrorizing our elderly citizens in Wayne and surrounding counties," Police Chief Tim Bell said after the arrest. "I'm glad it came to an end."