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Man sentenced to 10 years for string of local thefts

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By Johnathan Ryan

A 26-year-old Lancaster man accused of going on stealing spree between last fall and this spring was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday.

Zachary Helms, 26, pleaded guilty at the Lancaster County Courthouse to two charges of auto break-in, three grand larceny charges, three forgery charges and five burglary charges. He also pleaded guilty to receiving stolen goods over $5,000 and possession of stolen vehicle over $5,000.

Helms' victims included some of his relatives and his church.

He was accused of stealing money, a car, two trucks, electronic equipment, jewelry and checks that were forged and cashed. About half of the incidents came after Helms was bonded out of jail in December 2007.

John Carter, whose 2007 Chevy Impala was stolen in March and then found damaged, said Helms has little or no regard for the people and property around him. He asked Judge Brooks Goldsmith give Helms no leniency.

"It's obvious there's no care for the community," Carter said.

The Rev. Andrew Hart, pastor of Douglas Presbyterian Church, which was burglarized in April, said his church family is deeply troubled that one of its members would commit so much crime. Helms was accused of taking a computer and $50 from the church.

Helms admitted to struggling with crack cocaine addition, though he didn't blame that for his chronic stealing. He said he has been taking lithium for bipolar disorder since late last year.

He asked Goldsmith for mercy and expressed regret for his crimes during his plea.

"There are no words, no apologies that can be said for my actions against my community," Helms said.

Goldsmith accepted a recommendation from Helms' lawyer, Francis Bell, and 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield on sentencing.

Goldsmith said Helms would be recommended for alcohol and drug rehabilitation while in prison.

Helms could be eligible for parole after a third of his sentence is served.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416