Nancy Gehrung of Florence sentenced to six years in jail after admitting to armed burglaries in Northampton and Holyoke
GREENFIELD — A Florence woman who broke into homes in Holyoke and Northampton with a loaded pistol in late December 2011 was sentenced Tuesday to six years in jail.
Nancy R. Gehrung, 49, of 56 Matthew Drive, will serve her sentence at the Western Massachusetts Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee.
Prosecutors from Hampshire and Hampden counties had asked Franklin Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup to consider state prison time.
Rup said the crimes were “extraordinarily serious” and that Gehrung put her victims in “great, great terror” by brandishing a loaded pistol at them. Still, Rup said she felt a jail sentence followed by a lengthy period of probation was more appropriate.
Rup said she was persuaded that Gehrung’s actions were the result of a psychological breakdown brought on by years of abuse and self-medication with alcohol and pills.
Rup said Gehrung’s life “spiraled out of control,” and she would benefit from the mental health and substance abuse counseling available in Chicopee.
Gehrung pleaded guilty in January to charges related to the Northampton break-in, including armed burglary and assault with a firearm, armed robbery with a firearm, possession of a large capacity firearm, carrying a firearm without a license, felony possession of a firearm and receiving stolen property over $250.
Gehrung was armed inside the Massasoit Street home of a Northampton family when they returned home Dec. 25, 2011, according to prosecutors.
On Tuesday Gehrung pleaded guilty to charges related to the Holyoke incident, including assault with a dangerous weapon (gun), armed entry in the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony and putting a person in fear, illegal possession of a firearm and larceny over $250.
Prosecutors said Gehrung entered a Holyoke home Dec. 23, 2011, with a loaded pistol and stole several items before fleeing when confronted by one of the residents.
Gehrung also pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (third offense) and operating with a license suspended for OUI stemming from a May 2011 arrest.
She still faces charges in Connecticut for allegedly stealing the gun she used in the Massachusetts crimes and robbing an Enfield liquor store.
Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Stephen Sloan acknowledged Gehrung’s actions Dec. 23 and 25, 2011, were out of character for her, and he said he took that in to account when making recommendation for a state prison sentence.
Sloan said the victims who came face to face with Gehrung and the pistol she was carrying still endure lasting effects of that trauma.
Sloan said he was contacted at Christmastime by one family who wanted to ensure Gehrung was still behind bars and not on the street to potentially break into their home again. Another victim continues to have nightmares about losing a family member, Sloan said.
In court, Assistant Hampden District Attorney Matthew Shea said when Gehrung was found by Jacqui DeFelice upstairs in her Holyoke home Dec. 23 2011, Gehrung pointed the pistol at her and said, “If I were you, I wouldn’t do a thing right now.”
“Those are chilling words when you have a gun pointed at you by a complete and total stranger,” Shea said.
DeFelice addressed the court briefly and asked that Gehrung’s sentence not be purely punitive and she be afforded some type of rehabilitation as well.
“It’s my belief that she has suffered deep emotional and psychological trauma,” DeFelice said.
Gehrung’s attorney, David Hoose of Northampton, said the investigation into the crimes revealed Gehrung’s declining mental state.
He read part of a note Gehrung wrote saying she’d “lost sight of her strengths” and that she’d “taken to living in the shadows.” Hoose also said Gehrung had allowed her condominium to decay into “squalor” as her psychological problems worsened.
Hoose said Gehrung’s supporters cited her generosity, and that the reason she was so desperate for money in late December 2011 was she felt obligated to repay a friend’s loan of a few thousand dollars as quickly as possible.
Gehrung spoke briefly in court, apologizing for her actions and asking Rup to consider allowing her to live in Keene, N.H., after her jail sentence is over to help take care of her 81-year-old parents.
As Gehrung was escorted out of the courtroom she tapped her chest over her heart and whispered “thank you” to her family seated in the court gallery.
Gehrung will receive credit for 455 days of jail time already served while awaiting trial. Rup ordered her to pay $810 in restitution.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.