by RANDY R. COTTON
A sentencing hearing in the case of People vs. Keith Michael Kazelskis took place Wednesday, September 2 in the 61st District Court in Grand Rapids before Judge George Buth. The defendant, a 36-year-old resident of Cedar Springs and 12-year veteran of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, was initially charged and arraigned on a larceny of $1,000 or more and less than $20,000 when he stole a Sentry lock box containing a large sum of money and miscellaneous papers from a 71-year-old resident of Solon Township.
The former Kent County Sheriff deputy was suspended without pay on July 7, and resigned from his position on July 8.
According to Kent County court records, “On June 23, 2009, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Keith Kazelskis went to Dan Elves’ residence in Solon Township to install surveillance cameras in an attempt to identify kids that had been harassing him. Kazelskis arrived and came into the home carrying two grey suitcase-style bags. One of the bags was carried into the porch area.”
After having his Miranda rights reread to him during an interview on September 8 Kazelskis admitted that he took the Sentry Box from Dan Elves’ residence on June 23 by placing the box in his grey bag just prior to leaving,
According to Detective Lieutenant Charles Dewitt and Detective Ronald Gates, “The tan Sentry lock box partially hidden under some wet clothing was located in the basement in the dryer at the home of Keith Kazelskis.”
There was approximately $1,200 in cash in the lock box . The detectives were able to open the lock box that also contained miscellaneous paperwork with the victim’s name on it.
During the sentencing hearing, the assistant Kent County prosecutor accepted the plea deal that was negotiated between the parties. The defendant pled guilty to and was ordered to spend 180 days in jail and 60 months probation for the one count of larceny of $1,000 or more and less than $20,000.
David Dodge, the Grand Rapids area defense attorney who represented the defendant, argued that there are no objections to the guidelines of the pre-sentencing report.
Dodge asked the court to consider the humiliation and loss of grace Kazelskis suffered. The attorney argued that the humiliation Kazelskis suffers is for his wife, two children and his mother and father.
Continuing on, the defense attorney asked Judge Buth and the court to weigh the characters for good people to see Kazelskis through this. As a former veteran of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, he lost his job and asked the court to be treated as a first-time offender.
Judge Buth received several letters from the community, including one from Dan Elve, the 71-year-old victim, who was unable to attend the court hearing due to his crippling arthritic condition. In the letter, Elve wrote, “I forgive him over and over again because we all make mistakes. I just want my $1,200 back.”
Prior to the sentencing, Kazelskis publicly said, “I just want to say that I am very sorry to the victim, to my family, the sheriff’s department and my family who I humiliated and for the pain I have caused them.”
During the sentencing phase, Judge Buth told
the defendant, “You brought shame to the community, your family and friends and to the Kent County
In closing Judge Buth said, “I order you to 180 days in jail, 60 months probation and you must not work in a position where you handle money.”
Kazelskis was ordered to check into the county jail on September 16 at 8:00 a.m., but will not be housed in the Kent County Jail. He was also ordered to pay fines and restitution.
Dodge said that his client comes from a very supportive family and the prognosis is excellent that Kazelskis will not be in any kind of trouble again.