LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Orange man who stole a pickup from a Lufkin car lot, robbed a loan company on Brentwood Drive, and then led law enforcement on a high-speed chase that spanned two counties and reached speeds of up to 120 mph in 2015 accepted a plea bargain deal of 17 years in prison.
Ronald Wayne Rice, 34, appeared in Judge Paul White's 159th Judicial District Court Thursday morning for a plea bargain hearing Thursday morning. As part of the plea bargain deal, Rice pleaded guilty to two felonies – aggravated robbery and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
The deal includes 17 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison for the aggravated robbery charge and 18 months for the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle charge. Rice will serve the sentences concurrently, or at the same time.
John Reeves, Rice's defense attorney, said that his client is already serving a 25-year prison for a robbery that occurred in Beaumont, and another robbery charge is pending in Orange County. Reeves said that with Wednesday's plea bargain, Rice will be serving the two new sentences concurrently with the 25-year sentence.
When Rice was arrested in March of 2015, he was also charged with a misdemeanor evading arrest charge. At the time of his arrest, he also had outstanding aggravated robbery warrants from the Lufkin Police Department and DeQuincy, Louisiana.
According to the narrative of the Lufkin Police Department, LPD officers were dispatched to EZ Loans at 103 N. Brentwood Drive in reference to an armed robbery at about 11:22 a.m. on March 27, 2015. Dispatch told the officers that the suspect was armed with a pistol and was driving a maroon Dodge Ram pickup.
Several witnesses at the business said that a tall, white man wearing a black shirt, camo shorts and a brown buzz-cut haircut entered the business while an employee was waiting on a customer. According to the report, he suddenly pulled a black pistol, pointed it at the clerks, and said something like, "Give me all of the money. I'm not kidding."
The report stated that he turned to where a customer was trying to shield a small child and said, "I'm sorry. I know you got a kid. I'm desperate."
One of the employees of the loan company gave the suspect, who was later identified as Rice, about $100 from the cash register and told him that the safe was on a time delay, the report stated. Then Rice allegedly turned to the other employee and demanded that she hand over all of her money as well. The manager of EZ Loans told the Lufkin Police Department that the suspect ran from the business when the employee told him she didn't have any money.
The people at the loan business and several witnesses who were outside when the armed robbery occurred told LPD officers that the suspect left in a maroon Dodge pickup with plastic on the back glass.
Later, LPD officers found a maroon Dodge pickup matching the description of the suspect vehicle with no license plates and plastic on the back glass parked at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Police officers quickly checked the restaurant for anyone matching the suspect's description but couldn't find anyone, the report stated.
When the officers ran the registration on the parked pickup, they found that it belonged to Rice.
Later that day, the manager of Price Right Auto located at 1613 S. First Street called to report a stolen or missing vehicle. According to the police report, the manager said that Rice had test driven a brown over tan Dodge Ram pickup and had not returned the vehicle.
When the investigating officer went to speak to the manager of the car lot, the man said Rice and a woman arrived at his business in a maroon Dodge Ram with plastic over the back glass. After the woman drove away, Rice looked at several vehicles before he asked to test drive a dark brown over tan 2010 Dodge Ram pickup, the report stated.
The report also stated that the manager of the car lot made a copy of Rice's driver's license.
According to a story that appeared on 12newsnow.com, Rice led police officers, sheriff's deputies, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers on a two-county chase that reached speeds of up to 120 mph. Authorities told 12newsnow that Rice was responsible for a crime spree that stretched from DeQuincy, Louisiana to Deep East Texas before the chase from Orange County to Jefferson County.
The 12newsnow story stated that Rice is the suspect in an armed robbery that occurred at a Subway restaurant located near Lamar University at about 7:40 p.m. on March 27, 2015. According to 12newsnow, he walked in with a gun and demanded money before he left with the cash from two registers and even $2 from the tip cup.
Later that night, Rice allegedly robbed a convenience store in Little Cypress, which is in Orange County, according to the 12newsnows. A supplement to the Lufkin Police Department police report stated that the Beaumont Police Department took Rice into custody after the high speed chase ended in their jurisdiction.