Series of burglaries nets man five years thanks to community involvement.

Corey Michael Canty's road to prison took an unexpected turn Thursday when he was sentenced to five and a half years for a series of occupied home burglaries earlier this year.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Crain's ruling nearly doubled a 34-month sentence recommended by Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Karen Loomis.

"I think the end result was a just conclusion to the case," Loomis said.

A handful of Canty's victims and close to a dozen Jackson County Sheriff's Department officials attended the sentencing to push for a lengthy incarceration for the 29-year-old career criminal and registered sex offender.

Canty pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to two counts of first-degree burglary of an occupied residence and one count of second-degree burglary.

In addition, he was ordered to undergo three years' post-prison supervision and must begin paying restitution to his victims immediately.

"It is a shame that in the past our system has not dealt effectively with criminals like Canty," Jackson County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said.

Since age 18, Canty has spent 37 percent of his life in jail. Court records show he has 21 arrests for violating his parole or probation along with convictions for theft, being a felon in possession of a weapon, and unlawful entry into a motor vehicle. In 1996 he was sentenced to 75 days in jail for attempted first-degree rape.

One of Canty's most recent victims was the recently widowed Kelly Bohnert. Canty broke into her home on Nov. 22 while she slept inside with a friend and her two children.

Bohnert only knew Canty as a friend of a friend, but was aware he was a registered sex offender.

"To know that he was in my home while my children and I slept is a terrifying thought," she said. "Corey Canty went to my husband's funeral in July 2007. ... He knew me personally and knew that I was vulnerable and purposely chose to prey on me."

Burglary victim Tracy Proud learned of the proposed 34-month plea agreement and decided to speak to the court arguing for a stiffer punishment.

"I beg the court not to take a dim view of this man's current crime and victims," Proud said. "The only reasonable thing is for this criminal to get the maximum sentence today, and that can't be just 34 months."

Fagan was granted permission to address the court after the victims. To make his point he unfurled a lengthy timeline chronicling Canty's arrest and incarceration history.

Fagan, too, railed against the 34-month sentence, saying Canty's escalating criminal pattern should be taken into account in determining his fate.

"Burglary is as close to a violent crime as you can get," Fagan said. "It is traumatic having someone break into your home and shatter your confidence and trust in your community."

The timeline stretched several feet and took two detectives to hold. The investigators would later joke that it could be used as wallpaper border.

Loomis said she proposed the 34-month sentence in the hope that Canty would immediately own up to his crimes.

"We try to make an offer so that the defendant will take early responsibility for what they do," Loomis said. "We want them to admit any wrongdoing."

Ultimately, the imposed sentence remains under the judge's discretion.

"It is infrequent that a judge exceed the recommendation made by the district attorney's office," Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston said. "But it does happen."

Conversely, judges can impose sentences lighter than those called for by prosecutors, Huddleston said.

Crain reminded the court that Canty has already spent a significant amount of time behind bars to little effect. She remarked that lengthy prison sentences can do more harm than good by hardening a criminal to institutional life.

"You will still be a young man when you get out," she told Canty. "Hopefully, you can live a different life."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail