Judge Sentences Man who Robbed, Beat WWII Veteran to 50 Years

PRINCETON -- After an elderly World War II veteran described how he was severely beaten and then robbed during a 2014 home invasion, a Mercer County judge sentenced one of his assailants to 50 years in prison.

Joshua Short, 35, of Bluewell was brought Monday before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope for sentencing. In September, Short pleaded guilty to two charges of robbery first degree, a felony carrying a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Swope sentenced Short to 25 years in prison for each robbery charge, and ordered that the sentences run consecutively, giving Short a total of 50 years. Swope informed Short that he was recommending that he not receive parole.

On Oct. 16, 2014, Short and an accomplice forced their way into the Bluefield home of 89-year-old Richard Holcomb, who was then beaten and robbed. A .38-caliber handgun, a jewelry box belonging to Holcomb's late wife, and other items were stolen. The guilty pleas also covered the invasion of Holcomb's home and the October 2014 armed robbery of the Arrowhead Deli in Brushfork, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis said.

Holcomb told Swope he wanted the court to accept the plea agreement.

Holcomb, a Navy veteran of World War II, told Swope that he served both in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Holcomb later said he was 17 years old when he signed up for a four-year tour of duty. He served with the occupation forces in Japan after the war ended.

Holcomb described how he was beaten when his home was invaded.

"He hit me in the kidney as hard as he could, and knocked me over and kicked me in the ribs," Holcomb recalled. "They went through me house, stole money, a .38 automatic, and my wife's jewelry box. On their way out, I thought they would shoot me."

Holcomb then said his attackers, who were armed with a .22-caliber pistol, must have thought he was dead.

"I don't know how long I lay there," he recalled. He managed to reach his kitchen, pull himself up on a stool, and called Mercer County 911.

Now 90, Holcomb said that after spending months in a hospital, he is still suffering from his injuries.

Holcomb's eldest granddaughter, Terrisa Smothers of Springville,Va., expressed the family's feelings in a statement she read to Short.

"Joshua Zechariah Short, what I see is a weak, spineless coward who preys on the elderly," Smothers said, then adding to Short, who was looking away, "And if you don't mind, you could look at me."

Smothers said her grandfather suffered 12 to 15 broken ribs. The crime yielded only $150, a gun, pills and other property.

McGinnis said Short is facing robbery charges in Albemarle County,Va. Short will be facing Virginia's court system "in the not so distant future," he said.

Swope said he would recommend that any sentence Short gets in Virginia be served consecutively with his West Virginia prison sentence.

A second suspect in the home invasion case, Larry Patrick, Jr. no age available, is currently in a Virginia jail. West Virginia authorities are working to bring Patrick back to Mercer County to face charges, McGinnis said.

Short was represented Monday by attorneys Ward Morgan and Phillip Scantlebury. Morgan said his client had "a very troubled childhood" as well as a drug problem.

When Swope asked if Short had anything to say, Short replied, " No sir. I'd just like to apologize."

Swope said when pronouncing sentence that Short had a "history of mayhem and disregard for the law."

"I'm going to take away as much of your life as I can so you can never do this again," Swope stated. "I'm searching for a word that describes what you've done. The word that comes to mind is despicable."

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Veterans World War II