A Minnehaha County judge has sentenced 22-year-old Domach Khai to 30 years behind bars. Khai was convicted of five armed robberies that happened at convenience stores in Sioux Falls between November and January in 2012. Khai, who was in Minnehaha County Court on Wednesday, must also pay $1,471.83 in restitution and $312 in court costs. In July, the man pleaded guilty to three counts of armed robbery.
Khai cried as he apologized, and said he understood the severity of his crimes. In his statement, he said he robbed the stores because his family needed extra money.
"I believed I was doing something right for my family, but the irony is, I never did anything right for my family," Khai said.
Some of Khai's family members were in court.
Khai's attorney Manny DeCastro told the courtroom the former DSU student and basketball player is a, "smart and bright," young man who was, "well-liked by teachers and coaches." Portraying Khai has a young man with much potential for the future, DeCastro said stress over financial problems got the better of his client.
Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan showed the courtroom a different side of the young man. McGowan said Khai used a butcher knife, or in some cases, what appeared to be handgun when he robbed the stores. During one of the robberies, McGowan said Khai held a gun to a store clerk's rib cage, and said, "you don't want me to pull it."
"No apology, and no amount of remorse, will ever take away the fear that one of these victims faces. It's something that will last with them for the rest of their lives anytime they're working the night shift, or at a store by themselves. Anytime somebody walks in the door, they will be thinking of this act of violence," McGowan said.
In court, Judge Joseph Neiles told Khai, "It's almost like you're two different people." Neiles told Khai that a majority of families struggle with money, and that doesn't excuse using dangerous weapons to commit crimes.
The string of robberies began on November 11th, at the Caseys on 701 S. Sycamore Avenue in Sioux Falls. Less than a month later, authorities say he robbed the same store on December 6th. The crimes continued through December to January at the following stores:
- Get N Go at 5400 E. Arrowhead Parkway
- Gas Stop at 3000 E. 26th Street
- Cones Amoco at 1027 S. Cleveland Avenue
After police released surveillance photos of the man who held up the Casey's, an anonymous caller gave police information about the robbery. Two more tip calls followed after subsequent robberies. Police became suspicious because the caller knew things about the robberies they had not released to the public. When the caller suggested the suspect was about to leave town, police stepped up their search, which led to Khai's arrest.
Neiles said he may re-visit this case, and reduce Khai's sentence he exhibits good behavior while he serves his time. On behalf of Khai's family, DeCastro said they, "appreciate the judge giving him an opportunity to prove himself and the opportunity to shorten his sentence." McGowan hopes the outcome of this case deters others.
"If somebody is considering a senseless act of violence like this, they need to consider the fact, for a few bucks, they're facing a significant penitentiary sentence," McGowan said.