On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, Judge Evan Stubbs of the 424th Judicial District Court sentenced Joe Canchola, 28, to 30 years in prison after a Burnet County jury convicted Canchola of Burglary of a Habitation. Canchola was charged with burglarizing a home near Inks Lake. The case was tried by Assistant District Attorneys Amber Shanafelt and Kristen Sharpe. Canchola was represented by Richard Davis and Barton Vana.
Evidence presented at trial showed the defendant and an associate were on the property under the guise of lawn care work. The home was unoccupied as the owners had recently inherited the property from their late grandfather who had recently passed away. When the homeowners returned, they were fortunate that neighbors had noticed an unfamiliar truck in the driveway a couple of weeks before. A couple of neighbors even spoke with the defendant’s associate at the time of the burglary. The associate appeared to be soliciting lawn care work while Canchola was burglarizing the residence, even going as far as giving one of the neighbors telephone contact information. Several small items were stolen from the home, including some of great sentimental value.
Investigator Robert Clark of the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office located a key piece of evidence in a pawn shop in Austin, Texas. The homeowner identified the pawned items as pins given to his deceased grandfather for his many years of service to the Midland Police Department. The pawn shop’s records showed the items to be pawned by the defendant.
In a criminal case, the defendant has the right to choose whether a jury or judge will assess his punishment after a jury has found him guilty. In this case the defendant chose to elect punishment by the judge. Judge Stubbs received evidence of the defendant’s eleven criminal convictions dating from 2007 which included a 5 year prison sentence in 2011. The defendant had been released from prison only four months prior to the offense date in this case.
In sentencing the defendant, Judge Stubbs remarked on the very short time Canchola had been out of prison before committing this burglary of a residence, also noted the extensive number of convictions for a man only 28 years old.
ADA Shanafelt expressed great appreciation for the jury’s work in finding the defendant guilty. She said, “The jurors carefully analyzed the evidence in the case and held the defendant accountable for his actions. Judge Stubbs continued that accountability by sentencing him to 30 years. I think the Judge was very deliberate in his decision and the decision was very appropriate under all the circumstances.” ADA Sharpe added to Shanafelt’s sentiments when she said, “We continue to see Burnet County juries gladly embrace their responsibilities in listening to facts that are sometimes difficult to hear, in this case and others. And those juries also continue to demonstrate their intolerance for criminals that victimize others in our community. They do a great job.”
District Attorney Sonny McAfee said he was proud of the job his assistants did in the trial. He said, “These diligent prosecutors were up against very good lawyers that make you work hard prior to and during trial. But that’s what is supposed to happen in the system. The jury reached a good verdict and Judge Stubbs did a great job in sentencing this criminal to prison for a long stay. Hopefully, Canchola will learn to conform his conduct before he gets out or go somewhere other than this district if he doesn’t learn to conform.”