A Cortez man who burglarized numerous homes last year in La Plata County was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison.
Mark Suer, 37, maintained his innocence to the end.
"I just want you to know, I didn't do this," Suer told District Judge Jeffrey Wilson, before sentencing.
In January, a jury convicted Suer on 14 counts of felony burglary, felony theft and criminal mischief.
Suer, along with two co-defendants, broke into 16 homes between December 2007 and January 2008 throughout La Plata County.
He targeted second homes and vacation homes and used snowshoes to reach the homes during the winter months. He typically cut phone lines and broke a window or a door to gain entry.
Once inside, he took anything of value, including money, guns, televisions, stereo equipment, Navajo rugs, precious art and family heirlooms.
Family and friends refused to believe Suer was involved in the burglaries. They characterized him as a good husband and a caring father.
"I think you guys have the wrong guy here," said Albert Paul, who has known Suer for four years.
Suer has two prior felony convictions: one in 1991 for burglary and one in 1993 for robbery. He served about 10 years in prison for the robbery.
Wilson, who oversaw Suer's trial, said Suer's guilt was obvious to the court, and he was clearly the ringleader.
"It's important to protect this community, and that's what I intend to do," Wilson said.
Suer's younger co-defendants - Dakota Smallcanyon and Keven Benioh - said Suer thought it was OK to steal from the rich to support a family.
Suer characterized himself as a "modern-day Robin Hood," who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, said Deputy District Attorney Justin Fay, during the trial. But Suer never gave to the poor, and instead he kept everything for himself.
Gretchen Miller, who lives in a remote home in La Plata County, said Suer broke into her home and hurt her 11-year-old family dog, Pake, who had to be euthanized the next day.
"First of all, let me dispel the notion that Mark Suer is a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor," she said in a prepared statement to the court. "The home that he ransacked and destroyed was not a second home, nor a vacation home. It was my only home - a home that I've worked two or three jobs to maintain."
Once inside, Suer stole every piece of jewelry, some of which included family heirlooms. Her Rottweiler had a swollen shoulder and couldn't stand.
"Mr. Suer is not a victim in this case," Miller said. "He was the perpetrator, the ringleader and the boss who exploited two capable young men to participate in these robberies.
"His actions are malicious and cowardly. He abuses people and animals."
Again, Suer denied any involvement.
"I just want this lady to know I didn't do this to her," he said.
Before leaving the courtroom, Suer asked Wilson about appeal procedures. While being led out of the courtroom in shackles, he looked at his family, smiled, and said: "Don't worry. They can't railroad me forever."