Charles Rowan, a low-level cage fighter in Michigan who faked his death to escape a debt to a drug dealer, was sentenced Monday to 17 ½ to 40 years in prison after having pleaded guilty to armed robbery.
The sentencing caps one of rural Michigan’s more bizarre recent crime stories.
In August, Rowan, 26, pleaded guilty to robbing Guns and Stuff, a gun store in Gladwin County. But it was no ordinary robbery. At the time, many of Rowan’s family and friends, including many mixed-martial arts fighters, thought he had died a month earlier in a car accident.
They believed his girlfriend, Rosa Martinez, when she told them that Rowan was dead — so much so that they organized benefit fights in his memory.
But the death announcement was a hoax, part of a clumsy attempt to start a new life and escape a drug-related debt that Rowan said was as much as $80,000.
On March 18, Rowan and Martinez robbed Guns and Stuff with the help of a friend, Michael Bowman. Rowan struck Richard Robinette, the 75-year-old owner of the store, with a hammer and stole eight handguns.
After the robbery, Rowan and Martinez went on the run. They were hiding out from the police, federal agents, the drug dealers to whom they owed money — and the cage fighters who realized they had been duped.
Rowan and Martinez were arrested two days later. The strange case was the subject of a long article published in September in The New York Times.
“All three of us deserved to be punished for what we did,” Rowan said Monday in a phone interview from jail.
“Unfortunately, my life has been on a downward spiral for a few years,” he continued. “And finally, I just hit the bottom. I hope one day that I can make something of my life and show Mr. Robinette or his family that I learned my lesson.”
Robinette’s family described his recovery as miraculous.
Martinez was sentenced to 70 months to 30 years in prison on Monday. Her lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Bowman, who pleaded no contest in connection with the charges, is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
“Five minutes just changed two decades of my life, the rest of my life, the rest of everyone else’s,” Rowan said.