PEARISBURG — A Giles County man who three years ago led a home invasion that turned fatal for one of the would-be robbers asked last week for leniency for his younger co-defendants, requesting that a judge “place the burden on me.”
David Joseph Cecil, 51, then was sentenced to serve 43 years in prison, with decades more time behind bars suspended.
Cecil, who said he was in poor health and whose attorney said any lengthy prison term could effectively become a life sentence, drew 35 years for the deadly home invasion — a Jan. 3, 2018, attempt to rob a neighbor who he thought had money and drugs.
At the Wednesday hearing in Giles County Circuit Court, Judge Lee Harrell imposed eight more years for Cecil violating his probation from an earlier case in which Cecil was convicted of attacking his father, mother, and then-girlfriend.
Cecil had pleaded guilty in 2019 to armed burglary, attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit burglary, and possessing a gun as a felon. But before Cecil could be sentenced, he changed attorneys and was referred for a mental competency evaluation that found he was unable to assist in his own defense. About two years went by with Cecil receiving mental health care, being restored to competency, then asking to withdraw his guilty pleas. Harrell declined that request.
At Wednesday’s long-delayed sentencing hearing, Commonwealth’s Attorney Bobby Lilly asked for a punishment that would keep Cecil from creating any more devastation, saying that if Cecil had not organized the home invasion, Dakota Ryan Bailey would not have died.
Bailey, 20, was one of five people, including Cecil’s son, who joined Cecil in kicking down the door of Anthony Dewayne Gautier’s residence on Stockpen Mountain Road. The group wore masks and carried guns. As they rushed into the house, Gautier opened fire, killing Bailey and wounding Cecil with a shot that Cecil said hit his kidney.
The shooting was found to be in self defense. But Gautier, 34, had a felony record and ended up with two years to serve in jail for illegally possessing a firearm.
Defense attorney Mark Anderson of Christiansburg noted that Cecil’s son, Darren Justin Cecil, received 23 years in prison for his own role in the home invasion. Anderson asked that David Cecil receive no more time than his son had.
The elder Cecil said he still hoped to somehow be with his family outside of prison. “All I want to do is be free and walk out those doors again … second chance, third chance, whatever,” Cecil said.
For the home invasion charges, Harrell sentenced Cecil to a total of 110 years, most of it suspended. Similarly, for the probation violations Harrell re-suspended more than two decades of incarceration.
Cecil asked Harrell to have mercy on several co-defendants, friends of his son, whose charges from the robbery attempt remain pending. Cecil said he took responsibility for the robbery attempt and had “ruined some fine young men’s lives.”
He apologized to Bailey’s mother, who attended many of the hearings connected to the home invasion, including Wednesday’s.
Lilly read a section of Angela Bailey’s victim’s impact statement in which she addressed Cecil: “You were an adult and a father. You were supposed to protect those kids. But instead you led them into a deathtrap.”
Cecil nodded as Lilly continued — that Cecil had exploited Dakota Bailey’s loyalty to his friends and needed to face what he had done.
Cecil said that while he accepted blame, he could not remember much of the lead-up to the robbery. Everything before he and Bailey were shot seemed like a dream, Cecil said.
The lack of memory had the same cause as his a long criminal record — years of substance abuse, Cecil told the court.
“Drugs and alcohol ruined me,“ he said.