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BY PORTSIA SMITH
A Charlottesville man faces four life sentences in prison after being convicted of 15 charges in Louisa County.
Markus C. Houchens, 25, was convicted in Louisa County Circuit Court Thursday of six counts of burglary, four counts of grand larceny and five counts of property damage.
Houchens was accused of going on a crime spree from September to October in 2010 in Louisa, Fluvanna and Albemarle counties. Police said he burglarized numerous homes and stole thousands of dollars of property.
Police said he forcibly entered the homes, destroying the doors in the process.
A surveillance video played in court showed Houchens trying to sell some of the stolen items at a pawnshop, which helped police to identify him.
He still pleaded not guilty.
A jury trial was scheduled in December, but an Albemarle County detective received information that Houchens solicited others to lie on his behalf in court.
When those witnesses arrived in court on Dec. 12 to testify, they were arrested for conspiracy to commit perjury, and police from three jurisdiction executed search warrants at their homes.
Numerous letters from Houchens, including a five-page letter to his girlfriend, were found with precise instructions on what to say in court to discredit witnesses and create an alibi for him.
"If you say all of these things exactly like I'm telling you to, we will blow this case out the [expletive] water," he wrote in the letter. "I would never ask you to do this if it would jeopardize you."
His trial was continued, and Houchens attempted to escape from Central Virginia Regional Jail after he realized what happened.
He eventually ended up pleading guilty yesterday.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1 and he faces four life sentences and up to 125 years in prison.
Louisa Commonwealth's Attorney Rusty McGuire said the success of this case is due to the collective efforts of the Louisa and Fluvanna sheriff's offices, the Albemarle Police Department and the commonwealth's attorney's offices for those counties.
"This is the worst case of trying to commit fraud on the criminal justice system," McGuire said. "We are fortunate great detectives foiled his plans to escape and lie to the court."
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419