A 26-year-old woman who skipped out on her burglary sentencing in early 2011 now is behind bars for allegedly trying to steal $1,000 in goods from a mall store and lying to police about her identity.
Maria C. Romero appeared Thursday in Benton County Superior Court on three cases dating to June 2010.
She was booked into the Benton County jail Tuesday, more than two months after she used her sister's name and birth date when being questioned by a Kennewick officer. She reportedly knew at the time that she had outstanding arrest warrants.
Romero of Pasco pleaded innocent to second-degree theft and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. She entered the same plea to an unrelated older case of bail jumping.
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Trials for both cases are scheduled July 23.
Her sentencing in the third case, for second-degree burglary, has been delayed.
According to court documents, Romero pleaded guilty to the burglary in October 2010.
In that crime, Romero went into Richland's Walmart on June 28, 2010, even though she had been told earlier in the year that she was not allowed to return to the Duportail Street store.
Loss prevention officers saw Romero and an unidentified friend hide two bags of chips in Walmart bags that contained other merchandise, court documents said. She left the store without stopping at a cash register to pay for the multiple bags in her cart.
Store security detained Romero outside the store and recovered 31 items from her cart, including food, clothing and toys, documents said. The stolen merchandise totaled $370.
Romero reportedly told authorities she had been laid off from her job and didn't have money to buy items for her children.
After her guilty plea for the burglary, Romero was allowed to remain out of custody on her personal recognizance until her scheduled Jan. 13, 2011, sentencing.
When she didn't show up, her defense attorney told the judge he believed Romero was in the emergency room. The hearing was postponed a week and though she failed to appear again, she had given her lawyer a doctor's note indicating she was to be on bed rest for four weeks, court documents said.
A warrant was issued Feb. 24, 2011, when Romero skipped out on the third sentencing date, documents said.
Prosecutors charged her with bail jumping in June 2011.
Then on March 11 this year, Romero was in Sears at the Columbia Center mall when loss prevention officers noticed she had filled a cart with clothes, shoes and other merchandise and exited the store without paying, court documents said.
A security officer ordered Romero to return to the store, but she allegedly refused. The officer then saw a man take the two children who had been with the suspect, put them in a car and drive away, while Romero ran away, documents said.
Prosecutors allege that Romero dumped the merchandise -- totaling $1,039 -- in the parking lot before she left.
The security officer gave Kennewick police information about the vehicle with the kids. The car was traced to a home where Officer Jason Harrington found a woman who matched the shoplifting suspect's description.
The suspect gave Harrington a name and date of birth, but she didn't have any identification to back it up. However, the car's owner confirmed the woman's story and the suspect was allowed to leave, court documents said.
Authorities say they later discovered that the woman who owned the car was a relative of Romero's and allegedly lied to protect her.
Romero's bail includes $10,000 for the new theft case and $10,000 on the older burglary.
Ex-Best Buy employee gets 10 days in jail for theft
A Best Buy employee who stole about $1,800 in merchandise to help cover his personal bills was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Noe Gutierrez, 19, was given credit for having served the time already. The standard range for his crime is up to two months in jail because he had no prior felony convictions. The Pasco man pleaded guilty in May to second-degree theft.
Court documents show that Gutierrez was working at the Kennewick electronic and appliance store between Nov. 1 and Feb. 15 when the theft happened.
Kennewick police Officer Joshua Sullivan said he was told the store recently discovered that Gutierrez had taken merchandise on several occasions, documents said.
Gutierrez reportedly admitted taking 16 items and selling most of them on Craigslist to help pay bills, court documents said.
Gutierrez must pay a total $2,895 in restitution to Best Buy, documents show.
Man heading to prison for selling pot to student
A Kennewick man is going to prison for a year for selling marijuana to a Park Middle School student.
The sentencing for Justin Demario Dixon came one week after the 22-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully delivering a controlled substance to a person under age 18.
The standard range for his crime is four years and three months to five years and eight months, however both sides recommended an exceptional sentence down.
He didn't have any felony criminal history before this case, court documents show.
Kennewick police searched Dixon's apartment in April 2011 after several students at the West 10th Avenue school were caught on campus with pot, or reported witnessing deals being made. The students ranged in age from 11 to 13.
Information led police to Dixon, who had "a quantity of marijuana" in his nearby home. At the time, he denied selling pot but told officers he was in the apartment during the sale, documents said.
Dixon must report to the jail by June 13 to be transferred to the Washington Department of Corrections.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org