Man sentenced to 54 years in deadly liquor store robbery

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A man will spend decades in prison for his role in a string of robberies that led to one store owner's murder.

Phinehas Daniels, mugshot courtesy CSPD

Phinehas Daniels, just 18 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty in February to second-degree murder and aggravated robbery for the death of 68-year-old Donat Herr. He also pleaded guilty then to aggravated robbery in two separate cases involving convenience stores.

Herr, the owner of Empire Wine & Liquor in northeast Colorado Springs, was shot three times by Daniels on Feb. 15, 2017. Attorneys said it was over a bottle of liquor and some cash.

Ahead of Thursday's sentence, Daniels issued a short apology in front of the judge stating, "First off, I'd like to say I'm sorry for everything I've committed and done."

He said sorry to Herr's family and said he prays every day that things could have gone differently and that he wishes he could change the past.

However, Herr's family was not in court.

“Every time that they have to talk about this or be present in court, I think it rips open that wound a little bit for them and it’s exhausting for them,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Martha McKinney. “I think they’re very, very tired and I hope now that they have time to go through the grieving process without having to be constantly reminded because of the court process.”

Prosecution attorneys brought up his lengthy juvenile crime past, arguing that a long sentence was needed to stop him.

The defense argued on his tough upbringing, citing a father who spent much of his childhood in jail before abandoning his family and a mother with mental health issues.

However, the judge agreed with the severity of his crimes, stating a murdered man is the most serious type of offense. He stated that there is "virtually no sentence" that he could impose that would alleviate the sense of loss for Herr's family.

“The judge took into consideration how serious it is and he also took into consideration Mr. Daniels’ age, but he had such an extensive juvenile history that I think it really showed the judge that this was not just a cycle of events that resulted in this,” McKinney said.

Daniels was then sentenced to a total of 54 years in prison. He'll get 431 days credit for his time already served.

“A prison sentence of over five decades is reflecting how serious this was and how numerous victims were terrorized by this man,” said McKinney.

Daniels was the last to be sentenced for the robbery cases. Police said ahead of the arrests from mid-January through mid-February of 2017, there were 11 robberies linked to Daniels and three others. In March, officers announced the arrests of Daniels, Dustin Logan, a then 13-year-old and a then 16-year-old.

The 13-year-old was sentenced to six years and six months in juvenile jail for his role in the crime back in November. That sentence was the result of a plea bargain. The 16-year-old was sentenced to seven years in juvenile jail. Logan received his sentence of 10 years and six months in March.