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Man sentenced in 2018 invasion of Sunderland home; Victim with letter opener fended off intruder

  • Okan Caliskan/via Pixabay



Staff Writer
Monday, June 14, 2021

GREENFIELD — The Hadley man who police say broke into a Sunderland home in 2018 only to be fended off by a woman wielding a letter opener pleaded guilty to 10 charges in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday.

Donald Walker, 38, was sentenced to five to six years in state prison, followed by three years of probation. He pleaded guilty to home invasion, breaking and entering during the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony, armed burglary, assault on an elder by means of a dangerous weapon, larceny from a building, breaking and entering into a vehicle in the nighttime, larceny under $250, failure to appear in court after release on bail or recognizance, and two counts of armed assault in a dwelling.

Walker was sworn in and took the stand so Judge Richard Carey could ask a slew of questions to ensure Walker was of sound mind and aware of the rights he was forfeiting by pleading guilty. Walker will be credited with 497 days of time served, not including Monday. He did not object to any of the facts read aloud by First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne, who prosecuted the case.

Gagne said Walker was on Old Amherst Road in Sunderland at around 1 a.m. on March 25, 2018, when he approached a 63-year-old woman’s residence and forced his way inside through a window. The woman, Gagne said, heard a commotion — which turned out to be Walker rummaging through her belongings, including her purse — and deduced someone had entered her home.

Gagne said the woman armed herself with a letter opener from her bedside stand and went across the hall, where her 35-year-old son was lying awake in bed. They then took shelter inside a room shortly before Walker proceeded upstairs with an opened, approximately 4-inch folding knife.

According to Gagne, Walker tried to force his way into the room while the mother, who could see the knife, offered resistance against the door. Walker managed to gain partial entry and the mother saw enough of him to later identify him as the intruder.

The mother reportedly swung the letter opener and struck Walker in the “neck or upper chest area,” causing Walker to flee the scene with a “fairly superficial laceration.” He was stopped in the area by a police officer who noticed he was the only person walking around after the victims called 911. The folding knife, in an open and locked position, and some other items belonging to the victims were found in his possession.

Gagne also said Walker had broken into an unlocked vehicle earlier in the night and stolen a coin purse with money inside, leading to the charge of breaking and entering into a vehicle. The charge of failure to appear stems from Walker’s decision to skip a 2020 court date after posting bail the previous year. His whereabouts were unknown for slightly more than a year before his arrest by Greenfield police in March.

Walker was represented by public defender Korrina Burnham, who had no comment for the Greenfield Recorder. Gagne asked for a 10- to 12-year sentence, whereas Burnham asked for two to four years. Walker’s grandmother and fiancee were in the courtroom in a show of support.

Gagne mentioned the female victim, who reportedly attended the hearing through a Zoom conference, submitted a victim-impact statement that Carey read privately. Gagne and Carey said the victim holds no resentment toward Walker and wishes him well in his battle against addiction, which led to his crimes. Burnham said Walker has written the victim an apology letter.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.