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Woman sentenced in Christmas gift thefts

October 20, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg woman convicted of stealing Christmas gifts and the wallet of an unconscious hospital patient was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin Court to one year in the county prison, where her mother is serving time for the same crimes.

Judge Douglas Herman told Karen L. Beam he could have sentenced her to a longer sentence for "preying upon a helpless victim," but he had to consider the many other victims who deserve restitution totaling thousands of dollars.

Beam, 48, of 815 S. Fifth St., was sentenced on two counts of theft and one count of burglary to which she had pleaded guilty Aug. 26. After her release from prison, she will be on parole and probation for another eight years.

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Herman gave Beam 176 days credit for time she has already served.

"She said she can't blame it on alcohol or drugs. She did it for the money," Herman said, citing a letter Beam wrote to the court.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 8, 2004, Beam, her mother Vonnie Stopyra and Cindy Hykes of Chambersburg followed delivery vehicles in Chambersburg and Greene Township, taking dozens of packages as they were dropped off at houses, according to borough and Pennsylvania State Police.

In the burglary case, Beam entered Chambersburg Hospital on April 21 and stole the wallet of a man who was lying unconscious in a room after undergoing surgery, according to court records. She and Stopyra then used his credit and debit cards to buy hundreds of dollars in merchandise and make cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines, police said.

The list of goods stolen from more than 40 victims ranged from 21 gold Celtic rings worth $5,370 to a $13 Elvis tote bag, according to court records. 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 glass maker unit.

The stolen items and cash totaled more than $10,000, but Assistant District Attorney John Lisko said a restitution hearing might be required in the future to determine how much was recovered and returned to victims.

The 79-year-old patient from whom Beam stole the wallet wrote Herman a letter expressing his "extreme disregard for a person who would steal from someone who is unconscious in a hospital."

The victim asked in the letter that Beam be given the maximum sentence, which for the two misdemeanors and felony to which she pleaded guilty would have been up to 30 years.

Defense attorney Eric Weisbrod said his client was raising her grandson and had been unemployed and on disability for some time when the thefts occurred. He asked she be made eligible for work release so she can begin paying restitution.

"I'd like to apologize. I feel very badly for the people," Beam said.

Stopyra, 66, was sentenced to three to 23 months in prison and five years on probation for theft and criminal conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Stopyra also was charged in August with stealing money from a yard sale.

Hykes pleaded guilty Aug. 29 to two counts of receiving stolen property and is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 9, according to court records.

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