August 21, 2014

John Latorraca escapee sentenced to nearly 32 years prison

A man whose violent criminal history in Merced County dates to the early 1990s was sentenced again Thursday to serve more than 30 years in state prison.

A man whose violent criminal history in Merced County dates to the early 1990s was sentenced again Thursday to serve more than 31 years in state prison.

David O’Neal Coleman Jr. most recently made headlines in April when he escaped from the John Latorraca Correctional Center. He was captured a day later in Le Grand while throwing dirt and rocks at Merced County sheriff’s deputies.

Coleman, 41, was sentenced Thursday by Judge Mark V. Bacciarini to serve 31 years and eight months in state prison. A Merced County jury in July convicted Coleman of a series of criminal charges ranging from escaping from jail and residential burglary to weapons possession by a felon and transporting methamphetamine for sale, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office said.

“Mr. Coleman was essentially on a one-man crime spree in Merced County. breaking into (a) home with the victims present, possessing weapons, transporting methamphetamine – which is a huge scourge in our county – and breaking out of jail,” said Steve Slocum, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.

Coleman must serve more 26 years before he would be potentially eligible for his first parole hearing, authorities said.

The defendant was initially charged in seven separate, unrelated cases, but they were combined into one large case for the jury trial.

Defense attorney Caleb Hegland declined to comment on Coleman’s sentence.

Coleman broke into a Le Grand home on July 1, 2013, with a woman and her 8-year-old son inside. “The woman had to point a shotgun at him to get him to leave,” Slocum said. “That (burglary) charge also includes sentencing enhancements because the victims were inside, which makes it a violent felony.”

Coleman was awaiting trial April 3 when he broke through the ceiling inside a cell at John Latorraca and escaped. He injured himself on razor wire climbing over the fence, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department said. Coleman was found the following day, hiding underneath a home on Sixth Avenue in Le Grand.

The incident marked the second time Coleman had escaped from a Merced County jail. He previously broke out of jail in 1992 and was ordered to serve 16 months in prison after he was captured, according to Merced Superior Court records.

Court records show Coleman has at least 22 prior convictions in Merced County dating back more than 20 years, including 10 violent crimes, mostly involving domestic violence. His other convictions in Merced County range from battery and weapons violations to burglary and drug offenses.

“Hopefully, this sentence protects the community from a man who’s been committing felonies in Merced County since the early ’90s,” Slocum said. “Hopefully, whenever he does get out, Mr. Coleman becomes a productive member of society.”

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