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Ownership no defense in burglary case

Apr 4, 2011 10:27:00 PM - thestate.com
You can go to prison for life in South Carolina if you burglarize a home, even if you are a partial owner, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The justices rejected a Charleston man’s contention that his life-without-parole sentence is illegal because he shared ownership with his family of the house he broke into through a rear window. Ferris Geiger Singley, 43, is serving time for first-degree burglary and armed robbery at Columbia’s Broad River Correctional Institution.

The ruling, though it does not create new case law, could complicate disputes among brothers and sisters as well as with landlords, according to one of Singley’s appellate lawyers. The attorney who defended the state’s case disagrees.

Singley was convicted in Charleston of breaking into his mother’s home in the fall of 2005. He also put a knife to her neck, tied her to a bed and took $200 from her purse. Earlier, she had allowed Singley to return to the home, but she threw him out after three weeks. The intrusion happened six months after she asked him to leave.

Singley moved around the corner from the house where he grew up and had a 121/2 percent ownership stake after his father’s death. His brother also owned 121/2 percent, and his mother, who still lived in the home, owned 75 percent, according to court papers.