18-year-old Former Standout Athlete Charged with Breaking and Entering, Safe-Breaking

In May of this year, 18-year-old Zachary Scott Gnass pleaded guilty to two counts of breaking and entering in connection with a February incident at the Byron Center Market, located at 2592 84th St. SW, according to a news article at Mlive.com. Gnass is a former Byron Center High School student and standout athlete, having been on the wrestling team at school and playing tackle for the Bulldogs football team.

Gnass had an accomplice in the breaking and entering scheme, 19-year-old Jacob Curtis Awrey. Both defendants are alleged to have broken into the market after hours, stealing liquor and the cash box. According to police, surveillance video helped lead to the arrest of the two teens.

The charge of safe-breaking came about after Awrey told investigators that the cash box was broken open by Gnass. A law implemented in 1931 in Michigan makes safe-breaking an offense which is considered as high level as armed robbery, putting the accused at risk of facing life in prison. The Michigan statute reads, “Any person…who shall attempt to break, burn, blow up or otherwise injure or destroy any safe, vault or other depository of money, bonds or other valuables in any building or place, shall, whether he succeeds or fails in the perpetration of such larceny or felony, be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life or any term of years.”

Gnass pleaded guilty to the breaking and entering charge in order to have the safe-breaking charge against him dropped in his negotiations with Kent County Prosecutors, and has no prior felony record. However, in order to have the most serious charge dropped, prosecutors required that Gnass accept increased penalties for the charges of breaking and entering. He will be sentenced to between almost two years and 10 years in prison, and is scheduled to be sentenced June 25 in Muskegon County Circuit Court.

In total, Gnass faces sentencing on four charges of breaking and entering in connection with a series of incidents involving an hydroponics store and three smoke shops. On Monday June 24, Gnass apologized to the store owners and the court before Kent County Circuit Court Judge James Robert Redford, vowing to pay restitution both to the insurance company and market owners.

Michigan criminal defense lawyers understand that while breaking and entering is a serious criminal offense, young people – particularly teens – often make mistakes without first considering the potential consequences of their actions.


Individuals who have been charged with safe-breaking or breaking and entering an establishment must contact a talented Michigan criminal defense attorney at once so that work can begin to protect your freedom and future.