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Pa. woman jailed for pre-Christmas thefts

August 11, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

A probationary sentence was the recommendation for Vonnie Stopyra, but Franklin County Judge John R. Walker decided Wednesday that "the Grinch that stole Christmas goes to jail."

Appearing before the judge in handcuffs and a green prison uniform, the 66-year-old woman was sentenced to spend three to 23 months in the county prison and another five years on probation for theft and criminal conspiracy to commit access device fraud.

"I would have taken the Grinch outside and just kicked his ass," Walker said, referring to the Dr. Seuss character who stole Christmas presents before having a change of heart at the end of the story.

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Walker said the Probation Department recommended Stopyra get probation, but he decided she should spend time in prison.

Stopyra pleaded no contest in June to the charges, which stemmed from two different crimes. In the theft case, Stopyra, her daughter and another woman followed delivery trucks in the weeks before Christmas last year, stealing packages as they were dropped off at houses, according to court records.

"At the time it was stolen, I didn't know it was stolen," Stopyra told Walker. She said the property in her house had been left there by Cindy Hykes of Chambersburg, the third woman charged in the case.

Stopyra also said she never was in her car when it was used to pick up the packages and that she had loaned it to Hykes for her to drive to work.

"You're blaming it all on her," Walker said.

In the criminal conspiracy case, Chambersburg police charged Stopyra and daughter Karen Beam of Chambersburg in the April theft of a wallet from a 79-year-old patient at Chambersburg Hospital. A credit card was used to purchase more than $500 in merchandise from Kmart and a debit card was used to make $650 in withdrawals from automated teller machines, police said.

Stopyra told Walker she was not the one who went into the hospital and stole the wallet.

Walker asked Stopyra why she was in jail now, referring to her arrest Friday by Chambersburg police on burglary and theft charges for allegedly stealing money at a borough woman's yard sale.

Stopyra, who had no criminal record before these charges, denied stealing anything, but said "the cop took my pocketbook."

The cases of Karen Beam and Cindy Hykes are scheduled for the September trial term, according to court records. Beam is in jail awaiting trial, a prison official said.

Assistant District Attorney Tim Wilmot said he had a list of more than 40 victims in the package thefts, but only had restitution figures from 28 of them. The items stolen ranged from $5,370 for 21 Celtic wedding rings stolen at one address to a $13 Elvis tote bag from another.

Other items included a computer game, two bottles of wine, four skeins of yarn, clothing, men's shoes, lawn ornaments, aluminum pans, a toy kitchen set, medicine and what was described as an $800 glassmaker unit.

"It was a strange conglomeration of things to steal," Walker said. Victims wrote to him that they now wait at home for package deliveries "because Vonnie Stopyra and her gang are out following the UPS truck," he said.

Walker ordered that letters he received from victims be copied and given to Stopyra so she could read them in jail.

"A lot of people don't like you. You know that?" Walker said.

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