Pa. woman gets probation in thefts of lawn ornaments

April 19, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Judge Douglas W. Herman on Wednesday sentenced a Mercersburg, Pa., woman to five years on probation for stealing thousands of dollars worth of lawn ornaments and furniture.

"There's a substantial amount of property taken," Herman said looking over the restitution list for Melissa Ann Helm, 29, of 14566 Buchanan Trail West, Apt. 1.

Lawn ornaments, outdoor furniture, planters, flower pots, wreaths, statues and other items on the list had a combined value of more than $3,000, Herman said.

"There were some mental health issues ongoing at the time," Assistant Public Defender Scott Thomas said of his client.

Helm pleaded guilty in February to two counts of theft, according to court records.

The affidavits of probable cause filed by Pennsylvania State Police stated that the thefts took place between May and September in 2007. During that time, yard ornaments and furniture were stolen from more than a dozen businesses and residences in Peters, Montgomery, St. Thomas and Antrim townships. The businesses included Country Shadows Crafts near Greencastle, Pa., and the Gold Fish Barn near Mercersburg, police said.


"I have a lot of health issues and I fell into depression ... I couldn't sleep at night," Helm told Herman. She said she has been unable to work for medical reasons since 2002, but could not explain why she went on the lawn decoration theft spree last summer.

Police said Helm confessed to trading or selling much of the stolen goods, but she denied that Wednesday.

"I did not sell any of it," she said. While some was given away to friends, most of it was returned to the owners after she was charged, she said.

The sentence forbids Helm from contacting the victims, but she asked Herman if she could send letters of apology. Herman said Helm could, as long as the letters first were reviewed by the Probation Department.

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