Man sentenced to life following armed robbery in Florence Township

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Frederick Owle, 49, a Mount Holly resident who was found guilty in January of two counts of robbery (first degree) as well as weapons charges, which were merged with the robbery counts for the purpose of sentencing. Photo Courtesy of the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office

A Mount Holly resident with an extensive history of arrests was sentenced to life in prison on April 18 by Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina.

The sentencing came after a conviction for the armed robberies of a Florence Township convenience store and gas station two years ago.

According to Coffina, it was the ninth conviction in New Jersey Superior Court for Frederick Owle, 49, who uses the street name of “Chief” and has been arrested on 21 previous occasions for theft, burglary, assault, and weapons offenses as well.

Owle was found guilty in January of two counts of robbery (first degree) as well as weapons charges, which were merged with the robbery counts for the purpose of sentencing.

An investigation of Owle’s armed robbery revealed that his most recent conviction stems from a criminal campaign that began minutes before midnight on April 14, 2017, when he entered a Wawa on Route 130 and stood in line with other customers.

The prosecutor’s report said that upon approaching the counter, Owle asked the cashier for a pack of cigarettes. According to the report, the employee retrieved the cigarettes from the shelf and after turning back around, saw Owle holding a pocket knife and leaned in to whisper, “Empty the register and give me the cash.”

Instead of complying, officials said that the cashier backed away and broadcast over the store’s speaker system that a robbery was occurring as Owle took the cigarettes from the counter and fled the store.

Florence Township police officers responding to the incident were soon informed that another robbery was taking place at a nearby Valero gas station. For this robbery, officials said that Owle donned a mask and used a pipe to threaten two attendants, who then handed over approximately $500.

With the assistance of the Bordentown Township Police Department and the Burlington Township Police Department, officials said that Owle was located and arrested several hours later at the Budget Inn on Route 130 in Burlington Township.

According to the prosecutor’s report, assistant prosecutors Jeremy Lackey and Heather Tran argued that Owle should be sentenced to an extended term as a repeat, violent offender.

Judge Philip E. Haines imposed a life sentence for one count, and a concurrent, 17-year term for the second count. A life sentence in New Jersey equates to 75 years.

Although the life sentence came for Owle following his actions at the Wawa, Coffina said that he felt the indictment was fair given Owle’s extensive history of illegal activity and charges.

“On the surface, it might appear that Mr. Owle is going to spend the rest of his life in prison for stealing a pack of cigarettes and a few hundred dollars, but the justification for this sentence is irrefutable,” Coffina said. “This defendant has demonstrated total disregard for the law and safety of others time and time again, which warrants the tough sentence we sought.”

The case was prosecuted by Burlington County Assistant Prosecutors Jeremy Lackey and Heather Tran. The Florence Township Police Department conducted the investigation, which was led by Florence Township Detective Chris Powell.