For 28 years, Sandy D. Akin lived a quiet, law-abiding life in rural New Ellenton.
On Friday, she pleaded guilty to armed robbery in Richmond County Superior Court.
In January 2006, she dressed all in black, pulled on latex gloves and walked into Augusta businesses with a handgun. She threatened to kill employees unless she got money, Assistant District Attorney Philip W. Catalano on Friday told Judge Carl C. Brown Jr., who would determine her sentence.
She did it not once, but three times, and after her capture was facing a possible life sentence.
But her attorney told the judge it wasn't such an open-and-shut case.
Mr. Leopard said Ms. Akin was a kind woman from a good family who had never been in any trouble until she got involved with Charles E. Collins, who was paroled in January 2005.
She fell under his spell and was trapped when the relationship became abusive, Mr. Leopard said.
Through tears, Ms. Akin told the judge that she never would have committed the robberies, but Mr. Collins threatened to kill her.
He said if any police came near him he would kill her family, too, she said.
It's a sad, tragic tale, Judge Brown said. But he also felt an obligation to the people who are trying to make an honest living and go to work every day until someone sticks guns in their faces. They are never the same; they never get over the fear, he said.
"Quite frankly, it seems like our community is under siege from all of these armed robberies and burglaries," he said.
Judge Brown took the prosecutor's recommended sentence: 20 years in prison and then five years' probation. Because it is for one of the most serious crimes, parole is not an option.
Mr. Collins was not charged with the Augusta robberies, but both he and Ms. Akin face criminal charges in Aiken County.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.