NORRISTOWN - Appearing resigned to living out his life in prison, Michael McGrory had no explanation for a judge Tuesday as to why he led a gang of robbers on a five-county crime spree in 2002.
"I have no answer for you. Things just fell apart. No explanation will justify what I did. I apologize," McGrory told Montgomery County Judge William R. Carpenter.
Carpenter sentenced McGrory, 30, of the 600 block of West Schuylkill Road, North Coventry, to 25 to 50 years in state prison after McGrory pleaded guilty to numerous counts of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with the crime spree that took place between Sept. 15 and Oct. 22, 2002, in five eastern and western Pennsylvania counties.
"We all have personal problems in our lives. I just want to plead guilty and get this over with," McGrory, who showed no emotion in the courtroom, told the judge matter-of-factly.
Another member of the gang, Ian Taylor, 23, of the first block of Boxwood Court, Upper Pottsgrove, last week was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery and conspiracy charges in connection with his role in the crime spree.
Two other members of the gang, Travis Drumheller, 19, formerly of Boyertown, and Joshua Sheeler, 22, of Douglassville, have also admitted their roles in the 10 armed robberies and are awaiting sentencing.
Prosecutors alleged McGrory was the ringleader of the posse of robbers who wore ski masks and brandished rifles or BB guns and used duct tape to restrain employees of the businesses they robbed.
"I've been a (prosecutor) for six years and I have never seen a robbery case like this. The sheer numbers involved in this case are staggering. They were very violent crimes. There were 12 people terrorized by this gang, 11 of them at gunpoint, fearing for their lives all in the name of some easy money," said Assistant District Attorney Thomas McGoldrick.
"These are very serious crimes that called for a stiff penalty, and he got it."
After pleading guilty in Montgomery County, McGrory was taken to Chester County for a hearing on charges he took part in the Nov. 22, 2002, killing of a Pottstown couple and their unborn child.
Chester County prosecutors alleged McGrory took part in the brutal strangulation deaths of Kerry and Katherine Schadler, whose bodies were found in Towpath Park in East Coventry. Katherine Schadler was also pregnant. Authorities previously alleged the Schadlers were murdered because McGrory believed the Schadlers were about to go to police with information about the robberies.
Defense lawyer Michael P. Gottlieb, who represented McGrory in the robbery cases, said McGrory, is remorseful.
"He wants to apologize to all his victims. He feels very bad about what he did. He wishes it had never happened," said Gottlieb, speaking only in connection with the robbery cases.
McGrory had previously indicated he wanted to go to trial on the robbery charges. At some point, he had a change of heart.
"He took a look inside himself and decided it's time to admit what he did and face the consequences," Gottlieb said.
McGrory and the other three men were originally charged with taking part in the Sept. 30, 2002, armed robbery of the La Taverna restaurant in Phoenixville that netted more than $9,000, according to court documents
McGrory, Taylor, and Sheeler were also charged in connection with three Pottstown robberies - the Wendy's on High Street; the Papa John's on Shoemaker Road; and the Domino's on State Street between Oct. 13 and Oct. 15, according to court documents.
Drumheller was accused of participating in the robberies at Wendy's and Papa John's.
The investigation eventually widened and the men were later charged for their roles in connection with other crimes that occurred after they allegedly took their violent crime spree to western Pennsylvania.
The crimes included armed robberies of two pizza shops, a video store, a beauty supply store and a dance club in Butler, Somerset and Erie counties between Sept. 15 and Oct. 22, authorities alleged.
McGrory also pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault charge. Prosecutors alleged he used his fist to beat a bartender at the Zone dance club in Erie during the Oct. 22 robbery. The bartender's wounds required 50 staples and 100 stitches to close, according to police. The robbers allegedly took $728 from a cash register during that crime.
Even though five of the alleged crimes occurred in western Pennsylvania, Montgomery County prosecutors handled the prosecutions, using a state law that allows one jurisdiction to handle prosecutions of all acts related to a single criminal episode.
Authorities implied the Schadler murders were linked to the robberies.
Sheeler, according to authorities, bragged to the couple about the robberies, then told McGrory and another man, Matthew Eshbach, that Kerry Schadler had gone to police to collect a reward that had been offered for information leading to the arrest of the robbers.
After speaking with Sheeler, McGrory and Eshbach, 27, allegedly set out to murder the Schadlers. However, there is no evidence the Schadlers ever cooperated with police and the reward Sheeler allegedly bragged about never existed.
Eshbach is also charged in connection with the Schadler murders.