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Teen sentenced for crime spree

The teenager responsible for a 10-day crime spree last October that included a smash-and-grab robbery at Masterton’s Michael Hill jewellery store has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Dontae Gray, 19, appeared in Masterton District Court yesterday for sentencing, having admitted to 16 charges, including assault, dangerous driving, and aggravated burglary.

Gray’s offending started in June 2022 when he was arrested for driving while suspended.

He gave police false information and was found with a pistol.

A month later, $11,000 dollars was unlawfully transferred into his bank account, and he withdrew $6000 of it.

On October 6, 2022, Gray, with his face covered, entered Masterton Michael Hill with a hammer in his hand and a machete tucked in the back of his trousers.

He smashed six to seven jewellery cases and ran off with a handful of jewellery.

He fled the scene in a black Subaru Legacy saloon with no number plates, driving at speed and mounting the footpath.

At some point after that, he travelled to Auckland. On October 12, Gray and some associates drove from Auckland to Palmerston North, where they stole a paint roller pole from a Dulux store.

Gray entered Pascoes and then Goldsack and Co. jewellery stores wearing a mask and gloves; he used the paint roller pole to smash jewellery cabinets, this time taking watches.

On October 16, police sighted Gray driving on Worksop Rd in Masterton. Police signalled him to stop, but he fled; police units in the area tracked his location.

The vehicle was sighted turning into Mikimiki Rd and was subsequently spiked; Gray continued to drive the vehicle on rims before he dumped it and fled on foot.

He entered a rural driveway and was approached by the property owner, who was driving a Mazda van.

Gray demanded the keys and punched the landowner in the face, leaving him with a cracked tooth and a swollen jaw.

Police arrested him as he was trying to get into the van; he has been in custody since then.

Lawyer Ian Hard said his client’s offending was fuelled by methamphetamine addiction; Gray had started using the drug at age 11.

Hard said he could not find Gray a bed at a drug rehabilitation programme anywhere in New Zealand but asked that the prison parole board consider drug rehabilitation after he served some of his sentence.

Before the offending happened, Gray had moved to Masterton from Auckland to try and get back together with the mother of his first child.

That relationship ended; he became homeless and lost access to the baby.

Gray got $15,000 in debt to methamphetamine dealers who were demanding repayment.

Judge Barbara Morris said the offending came at a chaotic time in his life.

She said that the offending had a starting point of six years and five months in prison.

Judge Morris reduced the sentence to three years after applying a discount for his guilty plea, his young age, the fact he had no previous convictions before May 2022, his traumatic upbringing, and his addiction to drugs and gambling.

She noted that Gray’s parents separated when he was five, that his gang-member father beat him as a child, and that he was bullied at school before becoming a bully himself.

“It’s no surprise you turned to drugs and alcohol to try and blunt that trauma,” Judge Morris said.

“You became addicted to methamphetamine at an extremely young age.

“If you’re able to control that addiction, you’ll be able to be the father you need to be when you get out.”

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