BUCKHANNON — A man who broke into a home and beat up its owner, leaving him seriously injured, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison Friday.
Codey Dale Foster, 26, was one of two men who entered the home of Simeon Layfield in 2016. Seth Foster, 21, previously pled guilty to daytime burglary without breaking and assault during the commission or attempt to commit a felony, as well as fraud with an access device from a separate case. He is not eligible for parole until Oct. 14, 2018, according to information from the West Virginia Department of Corrections.
Codey Foster previously pled guilty to three felonies: daytime burglary with breaking, strangulation and robbery.
Prosecuting attorney David Godwin told the court, “This crime was one of the more horrible crimes that has been committed in this community since I came back to the prosecuting attorney’s office.”
He noted that it was a planned attack, with the two Fosters parking some distance away and walking through the woods and then using masks to shield their faces when they went into the home.
“We have a home invasion and we have a series of assaults,” Godwin said. “Before [Layfield] got in the hall, he was smacked in the side of the head and knocked across the room. He realized that the attacker had such a choke hold on him that he was going to lose consciousness. He said, ‘Man, let up you are killing me,’ and the response was to clamp down tighter.”
That is when Layfield found the strength to fight back by poking Foster in the eye and doing other things to get him to let go. Ultimately, both Fosters fled the residence but were captured soon after by law enforcement.
“This crime has seriously affected Mr. Layfield’s ability to enjoy retirement,” Godwin continued. “He has a problem with focusing and confusion he has never had before and that is a result of the defendant’s actions.”
The prosecuting attorney went on to say that the community has also been victimized by the attack.
“Drug addiction is becoming a more and more serious problem around here,” he said. “People in their homes already have a natural fear that someone is going to come in and steal or hurt them or do whatever. Normally, that is not a reasonable fear, but now with this having happened, you can’t really say that.
“It ratifies that fear that continues on the part of a lot of people in this community, and the defendant has done that. The defendant is apparently a drug addict by his own admission.”
Godwin referenced the mitigation video that Foster’s attorney sent to the court.
“You will see [Foster] saying that he needs to take care of his addiction,” Godwin said.
But the prosecutor pointed out that Foster had previous chances to get help and did not take them.
“Now, after he has done this horrible deed to someone else, it’s too late,” Godwin said.
Letters from friends and family describe Foster as a wonderful, generous person when he is sober, but say drugs made him do these horrible acts, according to the prosecutor.
“The court can’t accept that,” Godwin said. “If the court accepts that, there is a license to do all sorts of other things to community members under the license of being a drug addict. That’s not the way our law works. There is personal responsibility. He didn’t deal with his drug addiction. He put the drugs in his system and he did it.”
Godwin said that Layfield had been a father figure to Foster in the past and helped him, which is how Foster knew him.
“We are not here to judge who Codey Foster is on a day-to-day basis whether he is sober, whether he loves his children or not, and that may all be true, but the matter before the court now is what he did to Mr. Layfield,” he said. “That can’t be excused by his drugs and it has to be seriously punished.
“There has to be a line in the community. You can’t cross this line whether you are on drugs or not. Mr. Layfield has to live with Mr. Foster’s actions for the rest of his life, and Mr. Foster ought to have to live under it for a significant amount of time.”
Godwin said that Layfield had recommended Foster do 15 actual years in prison and “I think the victim is on the right track.”
Following Godwin’s remarks, Foster’s attorney, Tom Dyer, told the court, “It’s extraordinarily difficult to stand before the court and dispute much of what Mr. Godwin has to say about this particular case. This singular event in this man’s life and Mr. Layfield’s life, there is no denying it was god-awful and looks worse than god-awful in black and white.”
“We are here today to try to mete out some form of justice in this case, and I believe it is absolutely imperative that we look at the biggest possible picture we can,” Dyer added. “Obviously, from the video and the letters there is a kind and decent young man somewhere within the individual seated next to me.
“That kind and decent young man went on drugs and committed a horrific act that I am sure has reverberated throughout the community.”
But Dyer also described a man who lost a small child and had a lot to overcome.
“None of that excuses any of the behavior that ensues,” he said, “but the idea that a man who has gone through that and some other things is certainly not inconceivable in today’s age. What happened to Mr. Layfield is inexcusable and we are certainly not here to make any effort to minimize the grievousness of the acts that were committed upon him.
“At some point, on some level, there has to be taken into account the type of young man described in this video and described in these letters and some thought as to a balance between putting a man away for the rest of his life effectively and adequate punishment under these circumstances.”
Dyer hinted that a prison term of 10 years or less would be adequate but stopped short of any specific sentencing outcome.
“This young man is one who deserves punishment, but it has to be tempered by forgiveness and understanding of the overall picture,” he said.
Codey Foster addressed the court and said, “I stand before you fighting for my life. I accept full accountability for what I was involved in.
“It’s scary, your honor. I once knew sobriety. I was a helpful member of society. I loved attending church. I had three beautiful children and a beautiful wife.”
But Foster said that after losing one of his children in a tragedy, he realized, “I wasn’t this awesome person” and that “life came tumbling down.”
Foster said he lost his jobs, his family and even himself in the process.
“The only way I knew how to numb this pain was to use drugs,” he said. “I completely changed and I can’t stand the fact that there is something out there that has that ability to control me like that.”
Foster asked for a chance to prove himself and that he had found a rehab facility and would wear a GPS monitoring bracelet for the rest of his life if needed.
“Please give me a chance to help myself with this addiction and to prove myself to the court to the community and my family,” he said. “Everyone deserves so much better and I have more to offer.”
Layfield, who had already written a victim impact statement, was then offered a chance to speak.
“They are trying to make this an excuse because of drugs,” he said. “This attack was promised two years earlier whenever I scolded him on Facebook for vandalizing, and this was simply carrying out his promise. It doesn’t have anything to do with drugs. That is all I have to say.”
Judge Kurt Hall said he watched the mitigation video and thought it was very well done.
“I don’t for one minute doubt the sincerity of what everyone said on the video,” he said. “They spoke from the heart and that’s the Codey they know. But there’s a Codey they don’t know or they have chosen not to see. I think it’s dynamic that everyone has in their family.”
Hall said he was troubled by the fact that this was not Foster’s first burglary offense and he had plead guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary in 2011.
“Burglary, whether or not someone is home, is viewed by our Supreme Court as a crime of violence,” the judge said. “That’s their biggest fear is having someone to come into their home while they are not home or even worse while they are home, and you have accomplished that.”
In 2011, Foster was sent to the Anthony Center for Youthful Male Offenders but was returned as “unfit” and sentenced to the penitentiary instead.
“That was your second chance,” he said. “You didn’t take advantage of that. When that happened in 2011 — you could make an argument that there hasn’t been any change in behavior since 2011.”
Hall referenced other charges but said the daytime burglary was the most significant.
“When I read the account the victim gave me in this case, I will tell you, this is the probably the worst robbery case I have ever seen,” the judge said. “I have seen cases where someone pulled a gun on somebody ... but I’ve never seen one with facts as bad as this one.”
Reading from Layfield’s statement, Hall described how Layfield said he felt his nose break and at one point thought his neck was broken.
“I believe if you could have killed Mr. Layfield, you would have,” Hall said. “I think just for the fact that Mr. Layfield is apparently a pretty tough bird, you weren’t able to kill him. Again, this is the worst robbery I have ever had to deal with over 20 years practicing law as a prosecutor and as a judge.
“You’ve got the fear of someone breaking into your house when you least expect it, and on top of that, you raised the level. You were so hopped up, you were willing to kill Mr. Layfield. That is the only conclusion I can draw from that.”
Referencing Foster’s family tragedy, Hall said, “everyone has troubles in their life.”
But he reminded Foster about the biblical story of Job, who could have cursed God for the problems that he went through.
“When you are faced with these things that God throws at you, this is not how he expects you to react,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine what [losing a child] would do to you, but I know even if I did, I wouldn’t try to rob and kill somebody. I know that for a fact.”
Hall said while Dyer had done a phenomenal job of representing Foster, “sometimes it’s appropriate for a court to sentence somebody to send a message.
“It doesn’t often come down to that with this court protecting the community or sending a strong message. It shouldn’t be routine. I think those factors have to come into play. This is the most serious robbery case I have ever seen. The court needs to send a message concerning home invasion burglaries — that they won’t be tolerated and that they are not in any way going to be treated lightly by this court.”
Hall then sentenced Foster to one to 15 years for daytime burglary with breaking and one to five years for strangulation, to run consecutively with credit for time served. However, for the robbery, Hall sentenced Foster to a determinate sentence of 40 years to run consecutively to the first two offenses.
Because of the parole statute, Foster will serve a minimum of 12 years before being eligible for parole.
In other court news:
p Carl W. Jackson, 23, pled guilty to daytime burglary without breaking and was sentenced to one to 10 years in prison with the effective sentence date of June 6. Jackson has several other charges in other counties. Jackson was represented by attorney M. Roman.
p William Andrew Evans, 48, previously pled guilty to delivery of a controlled substance, methamphetamine. He was sentenced to one to five years in prison but Hall suspended that sentence and placed him on two years probation. The judge also ordered Evans to serve 80 hours of community service for each year he is on probation. Brian Bailey represented Evans.