Shock probation denied for man serving 10-year sentence in Burch jewelry heist

Published 4:13 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024


Marshall D. Belew II

A jewelry store operator who admitted to helping engineer a plot to steal a jewelry-filled safe during a home invasion that left one person injured will remain in prison after a judge denied his bid for early release.

Marshall Belew II, 54, of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, is serving a 10-year sentence that he incurred after pleading guilty last year in Warren Circuit Court to charges of second-degree burglary by complicity and theft by unlawful taking.

Belew was one of six people charged in a plot uncovered by the Bowling Green Police Department in a which a group of men forced its way into the home of the late Western Kentucky University provost Barbara Burch and stole a safe containing hundreds of thousands of dollars in valuables.

Some of the intruders who invaded the Smallhouse Road home in 2020 assaulted and restrained Doreen McCloud during the incident, causing her to suffer foot and leg fractures.

Belew acknowledged acting as a lookout during the incident at a site away from the home and then accompanying some of the co-defendants back to the Tennessee home of Frank Leonard, where the safe was opened and the proceeds were split among the participants.

Leonard is serving a 7-year prison sentence for crimes stemming from his participation.

Warren Circuit Judge John Grise entered an order on Wednesday denying Belew’s request for shock probation, a form of early release from incarceration available to first-time offenders who have been convicted of low-level felonies.

Court records indicate that Grise determined that shock probation would unduly depreciate the serious nature of the crimes for which Belew admitted guilt.

Belew and his attorney, Dennie Hardin, made the case for shock probation during a hearing in front of Grise on Monday.

“In a great moment of weakness, this happened,” Belew said of his involvement in the crime. “This whole event has completely transformed my whole life. It showed me how selfish I had been and how self-centered I had become. I’ve learned to trust in the love and support of my family and friends and my full focus is on their welfare.”

Hardin argued that Belew would not be likely to commit any new offenses if he were granted shock probation.

Grise questioned Belew about how he came to be involved in the scheme, and Belew said he was aware that Jeffery and Patricia Weisman, former friends of the Burch family, had knowledge of the safe and informed Belew of the home’s security features.

Patricia Weisman is serving a 10-year sentence, while Jeffery Weisman died by suicide while criminal charges against him were pending.

Asked about how Leonard, a fellow jewelry store operator, came to be involved, Belew said Leonard expressed interest in taking part in the scheme.

Grise asked Belew if he ever spoke with Leonard about whether this operation was a bad idea, and Belew said that was not discussed directly and that he wanted Leonard’s help as a lookout.

Belew has paid $462,500 in court-ordered restitution to the victims.

“I’ve done everything I possibly could to make amends,” Belew said in court Monday. “I want to continue on a good path, and I don’t know how to better say it.”

Warren County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel “Tres” Miller argued that the offenses tied to Belew were too serious for him to merit release on shock probation.

“This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision – this was a pre-planned, days-long period of weakness,” Miller said, noting that Belew’s participation in the plot extended to buying firearms and wi-fi signal jammers for the intruders to use to work around the house’s security features. “This was too large of a crime, too sophisticated an attempt for the court to consider shock probation.”

Two other men who participated in the home invasion and assault are serving 10- and 15-year sentences, respectively, for their roles in the plot.