Belpre man sentenced to prison for armed robbery

Aaron Ratliff, 22, was sentenced to a four-year prison term for participating in the armed robbery of a Belpre residence in January 2016.

MARIETTA — A 22-year-old Belpre man sobbed as he was handcuffed and led from the courtroom Tuesday after being sentenced to a four-year prison term for participating in the armed robbery of a Belpre residence in January 2016.

“I’d just like to apologize for what I’ve done,” defendant Aaron Ratliff told Washington County Common Pleas Judge Randall Burnworth.

“You’ve spent some time in some very bad company,” Burnworth replied before sentencing Ratliff to four years in prison for each of three first-degree felony counts, including aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

Burnworth said the sentences would be served concurrently, and Ratliff would be placed on five years post-release control after serving his four-year prison term.

Ratliff briefly broke down after hearing the sentence and being turned over to the custody of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

He was one of four men who broke into a home at 2509 Valley View Drive, Belpre, on Jan. 28 and held hostage Jon Bettinger, his son Justin Wiley and three other juveniles while robbing the victims of more than $300 and marijuana, officials said.

Also charged with aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping were Zachary T. Ratliff, 21, of 601 Barclay St., Belpre, James D. Ault, 20, of 2215 14th Ave., Parkersburg, and William “Billy” L. Mitchell, 19, of 3261 School House Road, Little Hocking.

Zachary Ratliff and Ault were both sentenced to four years in prison and five years of community control on Thursday.

Mitchell, who has also pleaded guilty to the charges, is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 9.

Belpre Police reported the four broke into the home wearing masks, yelling and brandishing guns, knives and machetes.

At one point a fight broke out between the defendants and two of the juvenile victims. Mitchell also pointed a gun at Bettinger and threatened to kill him, then fired a shot into a wall, according to Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings during last Thursday’s sentencing hearing for Ault and Zachary Ratliff.

The victims were held at gun- and knife-point while the defendants took the cash and marijuana.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Burnworth noted a verbal estimate of $2,000 had been received for repair of the wall that was damaged by the gunshot. But the judge said the court would require a written estimate or repair receipt before restitution for the damage could be considered.

Rings said he has already recommended that the homeowner obtain that estimate and have the wall repaired.