By Joe Beck
WOODSTOCK -- Eleanor Miller's right hand has carpel tunnel syndrome, an affliction her doctor thinks is a likely product of the night Sean Thomas Hall duct taped her hands and feet and ransacked her Strasburg home.
Assistant commonwealth's attorney Louis Campola cited the condition of Miller's hand and the 84-year-old woman's recurring nightmares as among the lasting effects of the home invasion that was the subject of a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.
Hall, 23, tearfully apologized on the witness stand, but Campola bored in on him, reminding the defendant he had spent much of his testimony talking about his addiction to heroin and how it contributed to the crime he committed.
"Before he ever got to apologizing, he had to talk about himself," Campola told Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson IV, adding that Hall was behaving like a stereotypical drug addict who lies repeatedly and thinks everything is "all about himself."
Wilson sentenced Hall to eight years in prison, an additional 16 years suspended and five years supervised probation in a case defense attorney Bradley Pollack conceded had "outraged" the community.
"He is outraged himself," Pollack said of Hall. "His defense counsel is outraged."
The sentence also included restitution for any medical expenses Miller may incur from illnesses or injuries doctors determine to have been caused by the home invasion.
The convictions included two counts of burglary on separate dates, abduction and two counts of grand larceny.
Pollack described his client as having led a "Jekyll and Hyde" life marked on one hand by sterling academic and athletic achievement during high school and college and drug addiction and violent depravity on the other. Pollack urged Wilson to focus more on probation than prison in deciding Hall's sentence.
"This is a unique individual whose chances of going straight are very promising," Pollack said.
Hall, formerly of 715 Capon Road, Strasburg, was 48 credits away from obtaining a bachelor's degree in business administration from Radford College the night he entered Miller's bedroom.
Hall admitted binding Miller's hands and feet with duct tape and placing them behind her before he began moving through the house, stealing items he would later sell to pay for heroin.
It was the second time Hall had burglarized the home in three months. Miller was away from home during the first burglary in January, but Hall, who was wore a mask during the home invasion, admitted he knew there was a good chance she would be in the house on March 29.
Campola demanded to know why he tied up Miller and left her in the bedroom.
"She was an elderly lady," Campola said. "What did you think she was going to do? Resist you?"
"I never intended to hurt anybody," Hall replied.
Under questioning from Pollack, Hall said he finished in the Top 20 of his high school graduating class and was an all-state wrestler, achievements from around the same period when he was arrested for possession of ecstasy. Hall said he had been using drugs since eighth grade but had never been caught until then.
Hall spoke to a largely empty courtroom in which Miller and two supporters were the only people seated in the public area.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org